Construction of Baskerville House in the 1930s
This image of Baskerville House nearing completion of construction in the 1930s is not that different to the same view, after renovation, in 2006.
The decision to build a new Civic Centre for Birmingham was made shortly after the end of World War I, the Council's choice for a site was a large area lying close to Easy Row and fronting Broad Street, chosen because it was close to the Town Hall and the Council House. In 1919 the Council began buying up land in the area with the hope of starting construction of municipal offices.
In 1926, the City Council organised an open competition to find the best layout for the Civic Centre. Several entries were received including some from other countries, the winning design of Maximilian Romanoff of Paris was deemed 'Too Ambitious', as were the other entries, so the City Engineer was asked to work with one of the competitors and S.N. Cooke, architect of the Hall of Memory, to create a more modest design. The plan they offered was approved and building began in 1936.
The first phase of the project, municipal offices, later to become known as Baskerville House, was ready for occupation in 1940. Due to the national economic climate in the 1930s and later the break-out of war in 1939 the grand scheme originally planned was not realised. It consisted of "A central parade ground of over 11 acres, with formal gardens. Around the square would stand more offices in the same style, a city hall and two smaller halls, a planetarium and buildings suitable for use as a library, museum or art gallery." It was also planned to include a 140ft column with a symbolic statue at the top. For many reasons the project got delayed and diverted and eventually the whole project simply never happened. Baskerville House was used by the City Council until the 1990s and eventually sold off for redevelopment by the company 'Targetfollow'.
Baskerville House was put forward as a potential new home for the central library during the consultation process for the 'Library of Birmingham' project. It was eventually discounted as the structure of the building wasn't strong enough for the weight of books that the library holds.
Library Services: Photo Archive - 1930s
Photographic and other Special Collections in Central Library
Birmingham Archives and Heritage Service
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive