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.
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.
Image property of Elliott Brown
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.
Image property of Elliott Brown
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.
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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.
Images property of Elliott Brown
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