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Raising the Titanic in the White Star Building

Larry Neild gets a sneak peek around the abandoned ship, soon to be relaunched as a hotel. Pics: Angie Sammons

Written by . Published on September 4th 2013.

Raising the Titanic in the White Star Building

TODAY we stood on the balcony where the names were read out of the 1,500 souls who perished in the Titanic disaster. 

With its rusted wrought iron rail and unadorned flagpole precariously perching like Kate Winslet over the prow, it sits at the front of one of Liverpool’s most famous buildings, Albion House, better known in the city as the White Star Line building. 

False ceilings and Formica wall panels will be removed to expose the original ornate and once stunning features of the building. The nylon carpet tiles hide acres of mahogany parquet floor

For years it has remained empty and silent, like a huge ghost hulk at the corner of The Strand and James Street, an unwilling mausoleum to the world’s most famous maritime tragedy. 

White Star Building Liverpool %2879%29

It was in this Grade II (plus star) listed building that the luxury liner was conceived by the great White Star Line. By the early years of the 20th century the port of Liverpool was Europe’s main departure point for people heading to the New World. The quest was always to create, the biggest, the best and the finest in terms of shipping. 

White Star Building LiverpoolFinished in 1898,  Albion House was  designed by architects Richard Norman Shaw and J. Francis Doyle,  and built for the Ismay, Imrie and Company shipping company, which later became the White Star Line. The Architectural Review was impressed, saying it made “everything around it look little and mean”. 

The architects had earlier worked on the old New Scotland Yard, and the buildings bear striking resemblances – it's known affectionately as the “streaky bacon building”.

White Star Building Liverpool %2810%29White Star Building Liverpool balcony

Back in the dayBack in the dayLiverpool historian Frank Carlyle tells the tale of how Shaw heard about a competition to design a new HQ for Ismay’s growing shipping empire. He had downed one too many and by mistake submitted the Scotland Yard plans. Ismay gave him the contract. 

Is it true? I hope so, I like such tales of serendipity. 

When news of the disaster of the Titanic reached England, White Star officials were too afraid to leave the building, and instead read the names of the deceased from the balcony to the crowd below. Many of the dead were local men who crewed the Titanic.

White Star Building Liverpool %2817%29
After White Star merged with Cunard Line the headquarters remained at Albion House until 1927. The building is situated on the corner of The Strand and James Street.

The facade is constructed from white Portland stone and red brick. During World War II, the gable was damaged and was later rebuilt in the late 1940s.  Cast iron girders, installed by the same engineers who built the Titanic, had helped it withstand the Blitz.

The shipping lines, one by one sailed from Liverpool, never to return. Cunard moved to Southampton. 

White Star Building Liverpool %2878%29

And so Albion House, needing a lick of paint and  cargo of TLC, has remained empty over the past few decades. The 100th 

White Star Building Liverpool %2843%29Lawrence KenwrightThen businessman and entrepreneur Lawrence Kenwright and his wife somehow managed to persuade the owner to part with the building. Work will start almost immediately, he says, to transform it, within the next few months into a smart aparthotel, cashing in on its famous history. 

Originally the idea was to call it The Titanic Hotel, but now Kenwright has had a change of heart, in deference to those lost at sea, he told Liverpool Confidential. 

At the moment it will be called Signature Living Hotel - Home of the Titanic. As well as bed space the new hotel will include a large banqueting suite.

White Star Building Liverpool %2867%29Mosaic on the entrance floorThe family-owned business currently have over 300 beds in Liverpool city centre, at Bold Street, Victoria Street, Mathew Street and their new movie themed hotel on Stanley Street and they plan to put another 350 beds into this building before taking their concept and design to London. 

The locked iron gates do not hide an Edwardian time capsule, but a building cruelly altered over the years to adapt  to changing office needs. One is more reminded more of the ice cream factory in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Iron girders helped it survive the HunIron girders helped it survive the Hun

Larry And Leonardo - Split At BirthSplit at birth: Larry and Leo

At least, and at long last, false ceilings and Formica wall panels will be removed to expose the original ornate and once stunning features of the building. The nylon carpet tiles hide acres of mahogany parquet floor. 

Lawrence’s ambition is to organise a grand opening party and to invite the lucky few back who got a sneak peek today. 

His dream team for the honours would go, he says, to Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio to relaunch this abandoned ship.

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Patricia O'neillSeptember 4th 2013.

Thanks for the photees, can't wait

SaladDazeSeptember 5th 2013.

Angie's Den? LC squat?

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2013.


AnonymousSeptember 6th 2013.

"Iron girders helped it survive the Hun"! Not normal Liverpool Confidential style language Larry!! Great project! Good decision to change the name. Good luck to them.

AnonymousSeptember 6th 2013.

"At the moment it will be called Signature Living Hotel - Home of the Titanic" Catchy eh...

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 6th 2013.

Means nothing to anyone

John ShawSeptember 6th 2013.

It's destined to be a success, unearthing all of the original features of the building will ensure it is. I have reservations about the new name, call it "The White Star". It will resonate among the countless Liverpool families who have past association with this icon of the sea. Silly titles, will not endear it to the Liverpool public, my old man sailed on the "Baltic" crossing the pond constantly during the prohibition years. "Home of the Titanic" is a misnomer, a tenuous link that's not worthy of a great City such as Liverpool.

John ShawSeptember 6th 2013.

I'm aware that there is an excellent public house called "The White Star". It wouldn't be too much trouble to differentiate between pub and hotel

Scot LandyardSeptember 6th 2013.

They ought to call it 'Lustgarten's Hotel' after the eminent broadcaster and crime writer.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Scot LandyardSeptember 6th 2013.

The evidence is compelling... radiosoundsfamiliar.com/…/scotland%201.jpg…

AnonymousSeptember 7th 2013.

They could offer guests A Night To Remember

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleySeptember 7th 2013.

Drag them out of bed and through them in Canning dock at? Yellow Duck marine have already tried that.

Scot LandyardSeptember 9th 2013.

"The ship has THREE HOURS TO LIVE!"

John ShawSeptember 7th 2013.

The voice of Edgar Lustgarten intoning woeful foreboding is hardly the precursor to a good nights sleep. A dip in the dock whether in an oil barrel or not is probably the least some unsuspecting tourist is expecting. This enterprise is a winner, give them the grandeur that was once the norm for our fine city. Let's do what we do best, make people feel welcome, send them away happy, they'll come back in their droves.

Frank CarlyleSeptember 9th 2013.

The most documented, written about, talked about and filmed ship ever, is the 'Titanic'. It's the most famous ship in the world. Last year in 2012, we commemorated the Centenary of the 'Titanic's' disaster. The City in honour of the disaster, gave a wonderful display of 'Giants' in recognition about the unfortunate fate of the ship itself. It was a huge success for the City of Liverpool. Today we have a wonderful and unique opportunity for Liverpool to prosper again. Albeit the 'Titanic' never sailed to Liverpool, it was, after all, registered and owned by Bruce J Ismay's White Star building. Cities across the world would love have an opportunity like we have, linking very strong connections with both the White Star building and the 'Titanic'. Therefore, it's imperative to link 'Titanic's' name to the building somehow. Otherwise, it could just become another new hotel on the waterfront. Given the right marketing, it could become the most famous Maritime themed hotel in the world, and it's right here in Liverpool. I agree with John Shaw's suggestion of calling it 'The White Star Hotel'.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Chris BarberSeptember 14th 2013.

Could not agree more! hope Lawrence is reading!!

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2013.

It's nonsense to think of calling it anything else

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2013.

I hope they have very deep pockets as this is going to cost well more than the five million I read they are planning to spend. They will also need some taste. Signature were originally going to call this The Titanic Hotel when they first announced it, but got so much negative feedback on message boards that they back tracked. It also doesn't bode well if they don't hire a decent architect. Unlike the Adelphi, there is no central well of light as it was not built for such purposes as housing people in befrooms, just long floors of offices.

DarrenJanuary 24th 2014.

It should be called " the star hotel "

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