Weirdly New Old Buildings

Roger W. Haworth, Wikicommons


When do you think this building was built, with its big windows and minimal designs?  Looks like the kind of place that a Barnes & Noble would occupy, doesn’t it?  1927? 1948?

Pretty close, but you’d have to go a bit further back than that.  Further as in just after the Civil War.  That’s right, this beautiful edifice was completed in 1866.  16 Cook Street, located in Liverpool, is one of the early prototypes for what we now think of as a “skyscraper.”  While not very tall, all the basic principles are there- a metal frame that supports the weight of the building, with outer walls that seem to be made out of glass.  Skyscrapers the world over now conform to this style- check out the popularly-named “Gherkin” building in London:




16 Cook Street is actually the second proto-skyscraper, after the curiously named Oriel Chambers:




While certainly not an ugly building, per se, it was hilariously described at the time as “a great abortion.”  Built in 1864, it is now a UK-listed Grade I building, which means it’s important, I’m pretty sure.

Peter Ellis was the unfortunate architect to have designed both buildings, and while he is lauded today, he couldn’t take the trashtalk that was being thrown his way about 16 Cook Street and Oriel Chambers back in the day.  These are his only two known buildings, and he listed himself simply as a “civil engineer” for the rest of his career.

Poor Peter Ellis.  If he was here today, we’d certainly let him know that we appreciate both of his beautiful abortions.




About Michael Ballaban

Editor, The Ball-Aban News

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