Category Archives: Lost Buildings

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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Kent House, Birmingham: From bath house to car park (updated)

Once a Grade B Locally Listed bath house, Kent House lay derelict for many years before it was demolished to become a car park.

Bath House building boom

Kent House was an extension of Kent Street Baths, which was the first baths constructed by the Birmingham Baths Committee, a council-run organisation, following the Act ‘to encourage the establishment of baths and wash-houses’ was passed. The site of the baths was chosen in 1849, while the foundation stone was laid when building work began on the 29th October 1849 by the Mayor.

Opening day!

Designed by D.H. Hill, they were opened in 1851, before their completion in 1852, after a three year build costing around 23,000. The baths housed a variety of facilities. In 1915, Kent Street Baths were the first in Birmingham to introduce mixed family bathing, for three days a week initially. The idea was so popular it became common across bathing houses in the city. A separate women’s’ swimming baths were opened in 1914 in the next building.

A new addition

The original Kent Street Baths were closed in 1927, and come 1930, the most of the baths were demolished, leaving the women’s baths still standing.

The womens baths were be incorporated into a new art deco building designed by Hurley Robinson, opening in 1933. This building was known as Kent House. The new building notably contained a spectator gallery and a diving stage set in a Proscenium arch.

World War II

During World War II, Kent House was bombed in 1940, damaging the gala bath and its surrounding buildings. The structure was repaired, and continued use until it closed in 1977, following a sale to the current owners, Benacre Estates, around 1970.

Dereliction and demolition

After a long an interesting history, the Grace B Locally Listed Kent House was demolished in 2009 after becoming derelict, despite local dispute. The owner of the property was Benacre Property, and the site is now a surface car park.

Featured image property of Erebus55