Restoration work has begun on the building where RMS Titanic was designed.
The former Harland and Wolff headquarters and drawing offices on Queen’s Road, Belfast was the control centre for one of the largest shipyards in the world early in the last century during a golden age for shipbuilding.
But, the vacant building is being turned into a Titanic-themed hotel using a £4.9 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.
Kerrie Sweeney, chief executive of Titanic Foundation, said: “The Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices are one of Northern Ireland’s most significant and important historical buildings.
“It is a building of global significance where over 1,000 ships were designed including Titanic, Britannic and Olympic. Today marks a key milestone in its long-awaited restoration.”
In its heyday Harland and Wolff’s headquarters accommodated 500 workers, including Thomas Andrews and Lord William Pirrie.
It was built in three stages between 1889 and 1922 adjacent to the slipways from where Titanic was built and launched.
The new four-storey, 84-bedroom hotel development will also include a public heritage space.
James Eyre, Titanic Quarter’s commercial director, said: “The prospect of being able to stay and dine in the very rooms once paced by the chairmen of Harland and Wolff will be an enormous pull for tourists from across the world and will be a major boost for Northern Ireland’s tourism industry.”
The new hotel will be operated by the same company behind Liverpool’s Titanic Hotel in the city’s Stanley Dock area.
Northern Ireland’s Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell described the project as “exciting”.