All posts by Brumitecture

Group campaigns against the closure of Moseley Road Baths

The historic Moseley Road Baths will be closed before the end of 2015, it has been decided. However, this has not stopped the tireless campaigning of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, a group aiming to retain and restore the building and its original featuresBrumitecture speaks with Steve Beauchampe, a member of the group, about the future of the building.

The History

Moseley Road Baths is located in Balsall Heath. The building was opened in October 1907, with the construction costing around £32,924. The oldest of three Grade II* listed swimming baths still open in Britain, this spectacular building retains much of its original layout, fixtures and fittings. It was given to the community of Balsall Heath when they ‘joined Birmingham’, and it is run by the Birmingham City Council.

Unique Architecture

It is the fixtures and fittings that make this unique building worth saving, according to the Friends of Moseley Baths. The rarity of these features shouldn’t be ignored; the building contains a complete set of 46 pre-war ‘slipper’ baths, which is the only full set of this kind in Britain, however they are currently closed to the public due to disrepair.

“So much of what is in there is now unique throughout the country. The Baths still have so many of its original features – these don’t exist anywhere else.” Steve Beauchampe, Friends of Moseley Road Baths

pool 2 moseley road baths birminghamPool 2 (still in daily use)

The architectural features of the building are astounding. A three-sided spectator gallery and balconettes look over the Gala Pool, while the 98ft frontage of the building is intricately decorated in a Gothic renaissance style.

Building Neglect

Due to continual budget cuts and lack of funding, Moseley Road Baths has fallen into neglect. This isn’t the first time the fate of the building has been uncertain – in 2007 it was included in the Victorian Society’s list of ten most endangered buildings in Britain.

heated towel racks moseley road baths birminghamSteam Heated Drying Racks in the Laundry Room

There is only one pool, the smallest, currently open. The grand Gala Pool, hosting unique balconettes, and the rare ‘slipper’ baths were closed in 2003 and 2004 due to structural safety and maintenance issues.

Closure Plans

Birmingham City Council plans to close Moseley Road Baths before the end of 2015, with the intention to convert much of the building to uses not related to swimming or fitness. This causes many concerns for the community, both for heritage enthusiasts and the welfare of the community has a whole. This troubles the Friends of Moseley Road Baths group, who have stepped in to campaign to raise awareness of the building.

Steve Beauchampe, a member of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, states that

“English heritage always say if a building can be used for its primary purpose it should be. There is a demand within the area for a swimming pool. This community facility its really important.”

gala pool closed moseley road baths birminghamThe Gala Pool (closed since August 31st 2003)

This conversion could put the original features of the building at risk. The Friends of Moseley Baths strive to encourage the council to restore the original features and reopen both pools for the public to enjoy this fine example of the community’s architectural and local heritage. One way of doing this may be to engage with a heritage group, which requires the support of the local council.  However, the problems with some areas of the building are so extensive that it would be costly to repair.

Replacement Baths

Importantly, when Moseley Road Baths close, many believe that the prospect of replacement baths in Balsall Heath is unlikely due to a lack of funding and available land. Instead, residents will have to travel to the ‘replacement’ pool in Sparkhill which is currently being built.

“It is an important loss of community space,” says Steve. “You are taking something away from the community. People won’t go [to the replacement baths]. People need them and can’t make the extra journey, from cost or time.”

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

The future of the pool is uncertain after plans to submit a Heritage Lottery Fund application were dismissed by the council. However, the Friends of Moseley Baths will continue to “keep highlighting the importance of building through events,” although Steve admits that despite engaging with councillors, they have generally been unsupportive, and “we have to be realistic.” Many other community buildings in the area have recently been closed, including the School of Art and the local library. There are also no clear plans for the development of the baths once it is closed to the public.

Steve reflects on what it may be like if the building were fully restored;

“The whole experience of using it would be such a different experience for everyone than anywhere else they are like to go swimming.”

To find out more, visit: Friends of Moseley Road Baths website

All images property of Friends of Moseley Road Baths

How HS2 will change Curzon Street in photos

The proposed changes for HS2 were announced earlier this year, with Birmingham recently named as the chosen engineering HQ for the project. HS2 sees to redevelop key areas of the country, including many parts of Birmingham city, including Eastside, which has already seen much change as part of the Big City Plan.

This post will explore what further changes are in store for Curzon Street, Eastside, and will show you what some of the changes will look like in before and after slideshows.

Proposed changes

The new HS2 terminus aims to make the journey from London to Birmingham only 49 minutes. Hoping to boost Birmingham’s economy by £1.3 billion every year, and creating over 14,000 jobs and around 600,000 square metres of employment floorspace, it is an ambitious project. The construction is set to begin in phases from 2017, with trains arriving in Birmingham from 2026.

“The Curzon Street Masterplan… shows an exciting vision of how the area around the Curzon Street station can be developed and transformed.” – HS2 Chief Executive Alison Munro

The architectural changes are as dramatic as the figures – the new station – Birmingham Curzon –  will be shrouded in a large glass structure, signifying the new ‘entrance’ to the city. The new station will be the largest built in Birmingham for over 100 years,.

Birmingham Curzon

Birmingham Curzon will be encased in a large glass structure. The station itself will be the main point for trains from London to Birmingham, and will also host retail facilities.

“Their vision for the Curzon HS2 Masterplan demonstrates the transformational value of HS2, not just for rail passengers but for the communities that the railway will serve.” – Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and Chair of the HS2 Growth Taskforce

Surrounding the station there will be extensive development, including transforming the derelict and fire-damaged Co-Op Building into a mixed use development. Much new office and creative business space will be created, further pushing the image of Birmingham as a city of enterprise and industry.

Curzon Street Station

 

Curzon Street Station will be incorporated into plans for the new station, although its exact use has not been specified. HS2 assets documents state that there will be:

“Protection of the former Curzon Street station building and the Woodman public house during construction and enhancement of their settings.”

While details of the station’s internal future remain vague, plans for its exterior and surroundings are certainly ambitious. Hopefully, the new development will help to make the historic station a hub of the community once again.

Nearby derelict public house Eagle and Tun will be incorporated into the new glass structure. The locally listed red brick pub will be modified as part of the construction process.

The History

Curzon Street Station

Curzon Street Station has stood proudly in Birmingham Eastside since 1838. It was a grand design by architect Philip Hardwick, which connected London and Birmingham by rail for the first time.

The station closed in 1966 and has successfully evaded demolition several times thanks to its Grade I heritage listing. The building is currently empty, save for an occasional art exhibition, most recently the Hidden Spaces exhibition by Associated Architects.

Curzon Street Station is set to be transformed to its former glory, once again part of the new HS2 terminus hosting trains from London to Birmingham – this time on an innovative high speed network. The station will be at the heart of the development at Birmingham Eastside.

Eagle and Tun public house

Just down the road from Curzon Street Station, the Eagle and Tun public house is a lost local treasure. It was once home to a thriving music scene, hosting the music video for UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ and holding live music regularly.

The pub closed in 2008 and has been empty since then. The building has fallen into dereliction and has some structural problems, future thoughts of retaining it in the wake of the new HS2 development uncertain.

The Eagle and Tun public house is a Grade B locally listed building. Although usually afford no legal backing in development decisions, the building will be incorporated into the new station, although its future use is still unclear.

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Library of Birmingham: From construction to landmark in photos

Opened on 3 September 2013, the Library of Birmingham has fast become one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. With a build costing around £188 million, the Library has gone on to win a number of design awards. How did the Library transform from a car park to an iconic structure? Here it is in pictures:

birmingham newsroom exterior build library of birmingham

Located in Centenary Square, the Library of Birmingham sits on a site which was once a car park, next to the REP Theatre. This final site was decided after much deliberation by Birmingham City Council in 2006.

library of birmingham harry cock

The facade of the building is clad in metal circles, forming a geometric pattern. A large roof terrace is full of lush planting including a wildflower meadow, encouraging a recent architectural trend for bringing greenery to a city using high rise buildings.

birmingham newsroom exterior scaffold library of birmingham

The public car park functioned until 2009, while in 2008 a shortlist of architects were selected during an international competition. In August, Mecanoo and Buro Happold were selected as the winners.

birmingham newsroom exterior scaffold library of birmingham

In 2009, plans for the Library were were unveiled, and building works began shortly thereafter in 2010.

library of birmingham harry cock

The building was opened in September 2013 by Malala Yousafzi, a young girl who survived a Taliban attempt on her life and now campaigns for women’s rights from Birmingham.

library of birmingham construction newsroom interior

The building is centred around a large, circular stairwell. Higher floors look down into the basement of the library.

library of birmingham harry cock interior stairwell

The futuristic design has large escalators and curved book-cases housing over 400,00 books on the public floors.

library of birmingham construction newsroom interior

The Amphitheatre is a modern interpretation of Roman design, where an amphitheatre was traditionally used for gladiatorial shows and horse racing.

library of birmingham amphitheatre harry cock newsroom

The Amphitheatre of the Library of Birmingham is home to cultural entertainment, ranging from live music to exhibitions.view library of birmingham window harry cock newsroom

The new Library of Birmingham has a wealth of facilities, including over 200 public access computers, spread over 9 floors.

library of birmingham gallery harry cock

 The Gallery, sharing artwork and photography exhibitions cements the Library of Birmingham’s position as a cultural hub. Visitors also benefit from the panoramic city views.

Images of construction property of Birmingham Newsroom. Images of Library of Birmingham property of Harry Cock for Library of Birmingham.

Letter from the editor: Is there an architectural tension in our city?

Hailed as England’s ‘second city’, Birmingham’s landscape is undergoing a radical transformation. In 2011, Birmingham City Council unveiled their ‘Big City Plan’, aiming to redevelop Eastside and key areas of the city to provide an increase in trade, jobs and housing development. Recent plans for the new HS2 development are pushing more change for Birmingham’s cityscape with a new central station and high speed train line. But what does this mean for Birmingham architecturally?

Industrial Revolution

Birmingham has long been known as an industrial city. The boom of the Industrial Revolution spawned the growth of factories in Digbeth and The Jewellery Quarter. Streets of terraced houses, and iconic ‘back-to-back’ properties were built to house workers. There is a beauty in these buildings, and an interesting heritage which, while recognised by local listing, is often ignored by planners when it comes to large developments.

birmingham back-to-back by brianac37 heritage architectureBirmingham back-to-backs by Brianac37

Although industrial buildings, like Newman Brothers Coffin Works, are commonly associated with the city centre, the growth in business and population also caused other architectural projects like the build of St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the smallest in the UK, built to house an ever growing parish.

Heritage architecture

The heritage architecture in the city centre is varied; grand, classical structures like the Museum of Birmingham and the Council Chambers sit close by Neo-Gothic buildings such as the Ikon Gallery.

Our city’s heritage stretches back much before the Industrial Revolution. Originally a small settlement, the town grew, incorporating land around it. Across the city, our buildings tell the story of Birmingham’s heritage. Selly Manor dates back to before the Tudor period, and is a stunning example of early black-and-white architecture. Aston Hall, a grand Jacobean property, was home to a prominent land owner. Sarehole Mill, an idyllic working watermill situated just outside the city centre, was visited by J.R.R Tolkien in childhood and is one of many sites in Birmingham that may have inspired his writings.

sarehole mill exterior, birmingham, heritageSarehole Mill

The suburbs of Birmingham, home to heritage buildings and a variety of residential homes, have landscapes slowly affected by council budget cuts. The recent announcement of the closure of the Mosley Road Baths is just one example of how the lack of funding for heritage public properties is becoming harder to come by.

Rapid growth

The city centre, on the other hand, is changing again at a rapid pace with growing industry. It is here that this architectural tension comes into play for many. Multimillion pound builds, like the futuristic Selfridges Building in The Bullring, and the new Library of Birmingham are beginning to spread throughout the city.

Growth and regeneration for the city – Sir Albert Bore

The Big City plan, including a full development of the Eastside area, has already begun. Millennium Point, the Birmingham City Centre campus and Hotel La Tour are all new additions. New developments include more housing, hotels, eateries and shops. New HS2 plans show a large glass structure encompassing the Curzon Street HS2 entrance, aiming to provide ‘growth and regeneration for the city’ (Sir Albert Bore).

Where is the tension?

Unlike some, it is not the aesthetic tension between these buildings that concerns me. In my opinion, the visual skyline of cities will change over time. In fact, the comparison between old and new fascinates me, showing the growth of communities and our changes in style.

baskerville house by brianac37 birimingham architecture heritage libraryBaskerville House by Brianac37

Instead, my focus, and that of Brumitecture, is on preserving our city’s heritage alongside growing development. Organisations such as the Birmingham Conservation Trust work to ‘preserve and enhance Brimingham’s threatened architectural heritage’ while the city changes around it.

Old vs. New

In wake of the new Library of Birmingham and the proposed development of Paradise Circus, the old Birmingham Central Library will be demolished. A brutalist structure, some would consider it an eyesore. But it is part of our heritage, and just one of a long list of buildings facing demolition or closure in the face of new development or budget cuts.

library of birmingham by elliott brown architecture modernLibrary of Birmingham by Elliott Brown

Island House and Kent House have already been demolished due to dereliction and proposed development, yet both sites have remained empty since the buildings were lost. Many listed pubs, including the Grade II listed Fox and Grapes, may be demolished for the new HS2 line and Eastside developments (HS2 Assets Doc, p. 17).

Preserve and enhance Birmingham’s threatened architectural heritage – Birmingham Conservation Trust

While some may consider these older buildings more aesthetically pleasing than their modern counterparts, the issue of architectural tension is greater than a matter of personal taste. These structures have been listed, locally or nationally, as part of our heritage; they are a historic part of the community. Just because they have fallen into disrepair, should we write them off in favour of high-tech modern development, or make it our responsibility to restore our heritage for future generations?

Responsible regeneration

In the midst of Birmingham’s increasingly modern cityscape, some older buildings are being brought back to life. The Newman Brothers Coffin Works has been taken over by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, and will open in Summer 2014 as a museum. The old CoOp building on Belmont Row, destroyed in a fire, will be restored as a mixed used development as part of The Big City Plan. At the heart of the HS2 development, Grade I listed Curzon Street Station will be renovated to its grandeur, once again a rail link to London.

As a city rich in architectural heritage, it is important protect it in wake of new development. We can’t forget our heritage in place of new development, instead we must consider them side by side. If it makes for an aesthetic architectural tension, a mismatched skyline between structures of the future and restored buildings of the past, then I certainly find it interesting viewing.

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The modern architecture of Birmingham

The city skyline in Birmingham is increasingly changing with a collection of modern architecture. These buildings are becoming iconic for our city, and are well worth visiting if you haven’t already!

library of birmingham elliott brown birmingham modern architectureLibrary of Birmingham by Elliott Brown

Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham is one of the newest additions to the Birmingham skyline. Built on the site of a car park,  and has quickly become  a city landmark. The exterior of the library is clad in metal geometric shapes, linking to the cladding of The Selfridges Building. The interior revolves around a huge circular stairwell, which is definitely worth exploring.

selfridges building by brianac37 birmingham modern architectureThe Selfridges Building by Brianac37 

The Selfridges Building

Costing around £40 million to construct, The Selfridges Building is unmistakable. The building is clad in 15,000 aluminium disks, giving it a futuristic exterior. Inside, the Selfridges department store offers retail and dining outlets. The store is currently undergoing redevelopment work costing around £25 million, including the recent transformation of the Beauty Hall.

millennium point by guy evans modern architecture birminghamMillennium Point by Guy Evans

Millennium Point

Millennium Point and the Eastside building mark the beginning of the redevelopment of Birmingham Eastside, implemented by the Big City Plan the the current plans for the HS2 development. Millennium Point houses Birmingham ThinkTank and an IMAX screen, while both buildings are sites for Birmingham City University facilities, with a second phase of build currently in construction.

staying cool rotuda birmingham modern architectureImage property of Staying Cool

Birmingham Rotunda

The Rotunda has had a varied history and has divided opinion throughout Birmingham. Once a block of offices, the building has been developed by Staying Cool and UrbanSplash to provide an apart-hotel and luxury living accommodation.

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Discover Birmingham’s heritage architecture

Birmingham has a beautiful variety of heritage architecture. Discover our top picks, and head out into the city to visit them this summer.

Grade 1

aston hall exterior birmingham

Aston Hall

Aston Hall is a large Jacobean building, situated in a prominent position overlooking Birmingham. It was built in the early 1600s at the commission of Sir Thomas Holt. The hall remained in the ownership of the family until the 1800s, and after changing hands several times it is now a public museum.

aston hall birmingham

Aston Hall features a lavish interior, decorated to reflect the different time periods the Hall has lived through. The extensive grounds are perfectly sculpted, and can be explored by visitors from April to November.

curzon street railway station birmingham by Steve Cadman
Image property of Steve Cadman

Curzon Street Station

Curzon Street Station opened on April 9th 1838. It was designed by the architect Philip Hardwick to bring trains from Birmingham to London for the first time. The station had a prominent place in the function of the city, until it was closed in 1966. Since then, the station has remained unoccupied, except for the occasional art exhibition.

station arial hs2 birmingham
Image property of Birmingham Newsroom

The station is set to be transformed in the new Birmingham HS2 development. Curzon Street station will once again link London to Birmingham with a high-speed line, bringing the station back to its former glory. The building will be incorporated into a new glass structure, signifying the new Curzon Street Gateway.

Grade 2

newman brothers coffin works by jewelleryquarter.net
Image property of Jewelleryquarter.net

Newman Brother’s Coffin Works

Newman Brother’s Coffin Works is one of Birmingham’s hidden heritage gems. In the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, the business was busy from 1894 to 1999 producing high quality coffin fittings, linings and shrouds for prominent members of society. The factory was sold in 2003 along with all of its old stock, including handles, photographs and catalogues.

The Birmingham Conservation Trust is currently restoring the building, set to open in summer 2014 as a community museum showcasing the business’ original stock. The building will also have units for local creative business use. 

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Image property of Staying Cool

Birmingham Rotunda

The Birmingham Rotunda is one of Birmingham’s most unlikely heritage buildings. It was originally planned as one of James A. Robert’s designs in the original Bullring scheme, but plans were later changed until its eventual construction. Opinion on the building is divided; when it was built many disliked it, but since its closure it has evaded demolition due to public protest!

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Image property of Staying Cool

The 25 story building has since been developed from its original use as office blocks to a luxury apart-hotel run by Staying Cool at the Rotunda, and a selection of homes by UrbanSplash.

Locally Listed


Image property of Brianac37

Eagle & Tun

The Eagle and Tun public house was a much loved local venue, offering a thriving music scene; the band UB40 filmed their iconic video for ‘Red Red Wine’ at the pub in the 1980s. After closure in 2008, the building has been left empty.

hs2 artists impression new canal street 3d birmingham newsroom
Image property of Birmingham Newsroom

The Grade B locally listed building is intended to be inetgrated into the new Curzon Street Gateway development as part of the Birmingham HS2 scheme. The building will be modified to fit, and will be renovated.

Explore Tolkien’s Birmingham

J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his childhood in Birmingham, living in the Kings Heath and Sarehole areas after moving there from South Africa with his mother in 1896. It is believed by many that several prominent Birmingham landmarks may have influenced Tolkien, shaping the stories in his well-known books ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Discover Tolkien’s Birmingham; you could visit all these sites in one jam-packed day!

Sarehole Mill

Sarehole Mill is one of only two working watermills left in Birminghamtoday. The building standing today was built in 1750, although a mill was documented at this site from the Tudor period.

Sarehole Mill may have been an influence when Tolkien created the places ‘The Shire’ and ‘Hobbiton’ in his books. Sarehole Mill’s idyllic setting and nearby Moseley Bog draws comparisons with Tolkien’s rural fantasy locations. Notably, Tolkien and his brother were regularly chased away from the Mill by the miller’s son!

The Mill held special memories for Tolkien, and he aided the public appeal to restore the museum in the 1960s. Now open as a museum, Sarehole Mill can be enjoyed all year round by the public.

Old Joe

The Joseph Chamberlain Clock Tower, or Old Joe to students, sits proudly in the centre of the University of Birmingham campus. Built between 1900 and 1908, it was designed in the Neo-Classical style, and is known as a campanile; the Itallian term for ‘bell tower’.

Tolkien stayed at the University of Birmingham in 1916. The University was being used as temporary wards during World War I, and Tolkien was treated there following contracting trench fever in the Somme.

It has been suggested that Old Joe’s glowing clockface inspired the creation of ‘The Eye of Sauron’ from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

Perrott’s Folly

Perrott’s Folly was built in 1758 by John Perrott, who was a local landowner. There has been very creative speculation over the reason for constructing the Folly, but the most common reason is as a status symbol and place for entertaining guests.

Perrott’s Folly and the nearby Edgbaston Waterworks Tower make a formidable pair in the Birmingham skyline. It has been suggested that these two towers could have influenced the ‘Two Towers of Gondor’ in Tolkien’s works.

Tolkien’s Birmingham is a varied collection of sites that inspired Tolkien and featured at key moments in his life. Take a tour and travel through idyllic hideaways to city landmarks. Visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website for more information on their Tolkien Trail to get your exploration started.

Featured image property of Nic Redhead

Island House, Birmingham: 100 years of history demolished

Built by architect G.E Pepper in 1913, Grade B locally listed Island House stood proud on the corner of Fazeley Street for almost 100 years. After becoming derelict, the building was bought by company Quintain, and set to be developed. However, it didn’t go to plan.

History

Designed by George E. Pepper in 1909, the building was originally intended as offices and warehouse space for Messrs Churchill & Co, a prominent machine tool company. Island House opened in 1913.

The building was later repurposed as offices, housing Birmingham City Council’s arts teams. After it became unoccupied, the building fell into dereliction, subject to break-ins and antisocial behaviour.

Site of Hotel La Tour at Masshouse island house by elliott brown
Image property of Elliott Brown

Design

It was the historic façade of Island House that captured the community around it. Ornately decorated, it was a grand triangular building which was iconic for many living and working in the Masshouse area.

Its Edwardian Mannerist style demonstrated the reversal of traditional design, with plain Ionic decoration on the ground floor and scrolled Doric decoration on the first floor facades. In contrast, the rear entrance to the property had a much more refined, utilitarian style. It has been noted the Classical building held similarities to the Flatifon Building in New York City.

The majority of the building was originally used as warehouse space. The front area of the first floor was reserved for offices, including the rounded main private office.

The warehouse space was originally open plan, although later alterations to the property included installing partition walls when the building was converted to office use.

Damage to the building had removed some original features. There was once a domed rotunda atop the building that went missing, possibly due to damage in WWII. Similarly, the Island House once had a third floor nestled in the roof believed to have been lost to bombing in WWII.

island house scaffolding elliott brown birmingham demolitionImage property of Elliott Brown

Development

Bought by Quintain, Island house was intended to be incorporated into its City Park Gate development, restoring it to its former glory. However, as new HS2 plans began to surface, the buildings future became increasingly uncertain. Birmingham City Council went on to release their ‘Big City Plan’ in 2011, which pointed towards the demolition of Island House.

Quintain’s application for demolition was successful. It was originally believed that they would have to honour their Section 106 restoration agreement, but it emerged that as building work had not commenced they were not bound by the agreement.

Island_House_Hotel_La_Tour
Image property of Bs0u10e01

Campaign

In January 2012, a campaign to save Island House launched, including a protest demonstration outside of the building to try and halt demolition. Protestors included members of local groups such as the Victorian Society and Birmingham Friends of the Earth. Due to the building’s Local Listing status and it’s much loved façade, it was felt that Island House had a prominent place in the community and many opposed its demolition.

Cranes at the Hotel La Tour site, Island House by Elliott Brown

Post demolition Island House site by elliott brown
Images property of Elliott Brown

Demolition

The Building Heritage Assessment deemed Island House ‘a generic value and is not supported to any significant degree’ although its ‘communal value as part of a shared public history’ was noted. The building was eventually demolished in 2012 amidst fervent campaigning, a little under 100 years after its construction was completed. The site has remained empty since the removal of Island House.

Featured image property of BrianaC37

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