Leeds Bridge House – a bit of New York in Leeds
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited New York, most recently in 2019 with Visit Britain on a trade mission to promote Yorkshire to US Tour Operators. On the trip, I was taken to see one of New York’s landmark sites – the Flat Iron Building on 175th Avenue in Manhattan. This triangular shaped 22 story building is an iconic site and when built in 1902 was one of the tallest buildings in the city.
But did you know Leeds has its own Flat Iron Building?
Situated next to the Adelphi pub is a building called Leeds Bridge House, which not quite the size of the American building, bears a remarkable resemblance. I passed the building on the way down to a meeting on Dewsbury Road after catching the train to Leeds this week, took some pictures and decided I needed to find out more...
The Leeds version was actually built in 1881, preceding the New York building – so was it the inspiration for its more famous cousin?
The similarity is probably a co-incidence, based on their position on triangular corner sites. The space led to a wedge shaped building, but the shape is not the only similarity, they are both architecturally built in an Italianate style.
Leeds Bridge House as the name suggests is just over the historic river crossing of Leeds Bridge over the River Aire. It is perhaps most famous for being the site of the world’s first moving picture where Louis le Prince created a film of the traffic moving across the bridge.
It was built by John James Cousins, a local banker based on Park Row. He had appointed local architects Messrs Adams & Kelly, also of Park Row to design the building to fit the triangular plot.
Once built, the building was opened as Leeds “People’s Café” – a sort of working men’s club of the era with temperance principles (ie. Alcohol free), providing cheap food as well as accommodation with 30 rooms and baths where people could bathe at affordable prices. It was re-branded 8 years later as The Cobden Temperance Hotel.
This did not last long before the building was converted into shops on the ground floor and some office space above.
The building was nearly destroyed when Leeds City Council bought the building in 1960 for demolition to build a motorway extension. But, this never happened and it was refurbished in the 1980’s and is now back to office space and run by a charitable trust.
This distinctive building is one of my favourite in Leeds, and a little hidden gem just outside the centre. If you are in Leeds it is well worth a look.
There is a bit more information in a recent article I found in South Leeds Life – you can read more here - https://southleedslife.com/the-story-of-hunslets-own-flat-iron-building/
And on Russell Croft’s log - http://www.russellcroft.net/blog/?tag=leeds-flatiron-building