Hortons Estates is restoring a city landmark built by its founder, Isaac Horton – Birmingham’s Grand Hotel in Colmore Row, which opened in 1879. Hortons is a family owned and run company, with over a hundred shareholders, most of them related, based around the world from Cape Town to Sydney.
Although Isaac started his working life running a provisions and butchery business in Lichfield, he later built a substantial property business, acquiring ground leases in the West Midlands. He is buried in the largest tomb – restored in 2004 – at Key Hill Cemetery in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, which is the resting place of many famous inventors and innovators of the 19th century, ranging from Joseph Chamberlain, Member of Parliament and Mayor of Birmingham, to Alfred Bird the maker of Birds Custard.
Foreseeing the impact railways would have on Birmingham, Hortons built the Midland Hotel in New Street and the Grand Hotel in Colmore Row, near New Street and Snow Hill stations.
It is interesting to read, on the company website, that the Midland Hotel (now unfortunately renamed MacDonald Burlington) was completely self-sufficient, using coal-fired steam engines to generate its power supply and drawing all the water it required from its own artesian well. The well is still in use, supplying complimentary bottles of specially-labelled water for guests, showers, baths and toilets saving thousands of pounds a year. It also supplies Waterstones, Starbucks and other nearby shops who pay a fee for the maintenance to Hortons.
The Birmingham Mail recently reported that scaffolding surrounding Birmingham’s Grand Hotel is to come down after the first phase of restoration work – the Colmore Row façade – is finished this summer.
Work on the building uncovered decorative sandstone bands running its length, which were previously painted over. Wraps will be taken off the stone and marble frontage over the next two months. The refurbishment of offices on the two floors above the shops is expected to be finished before Christmas. City architect Joe Holyoak was given an extensive tour last week and was very impressed by the standards of work, outside and in, which have been achieved.
Many will remember the experience of receiving good service at the listed Anatomical Boot Company (25 Colmore Row) which had retained the original interior, including a cobbler’s bench dating from Napoleonic times. Others have listed a photographic equipment shop, the Derbyshire Building Society, an antique shop, a milk bar and a newsagents. Stanleys outfitters was mentioned, but a search finds that was located at numbers 71-73 beyond the hotel at number 43.
Hortons plan to let half of the units to shops and half to food and beverage firms. After some repairs and complete refurbishment, most of these ‘retail units’ on the ground floor facing fronting Colmore Row are expected to open by Christmas.
List entry on Historic England website: http://list.historicengland.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1391246
Discussion and pictures: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=438093&page=38