The Argent Centre and Washington Irving bronze plaque in Birmingham

The Argent Centre

The Argent Centre is built on the site where Washington Irving conceived the
Rip Van Winkle story. Designed by J.G. Bland for a gold pen manufacturer in 1863 employing
250 people. Florentine window tracing and multi coloured brick fascias make this Grade II
listed building and excellent example of Italianate and polychromatic architecture
popular in the 19th century.
Directors had steam removed from the boilers for a Turkish bath and could also fence,
play billiards, chess or recline on luxurious couches which lined their rooms.
The premises were converted into small business units by Midland Industrial Assocation in 1988.

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. Irving served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.He made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. After moving to England for the family business in 1815, he achieved international fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819–20. He continued to publish regularly—and almost always successfully—throughout his life, and completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death, at age 76, in Tarrytown, New York.Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was among the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also admired by some European writers, including Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey, and Charles Dickens. As America's first genuine internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.

Source: dbpedia

The Argent Centre is a Grade II* listed building on the corner of Frederick Street and Legge Road in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, England.Designed by J. G. Bland for W. E. Wiley, a manufacturer of gold pens; it was built in 1863, and acquired the name Albert Works, possibly because it was opposite the Victoria Works of Joseph Gillott.Despite the appearance of being a huge, solid building, it consists of long, narrow, multi-storey workshops only 16 feet (5 m) wide, surrounding an open courtyard. This was a common arrangement at the time allowing natural light to reach workbenches from two sides. With floors constructed of hollow bricks tied with wrought iron, it was fireproof, removing the need for insurance. The multicoloured brickwork decorates a design reminiscent of renaissance Florence. Recycled steam from the works engines went to a Turkish bath in the northern end of the building; visitors to the Turkish Baths, also indulged in other leisure activities there, such as chess, fencing and billiards. Now flat-roofed, it originally had pyramids on each corner tower. A bomb dropped into the courtyard at some time during the Birmingham Blitz of World War II, and the bent window frames were visible at least till the mid-1980s.It was home to Griffin & George, scientific equipment supplier to schools and universities, as well as Gallenkamp, laboratory equipment suppliers, part of the Fisons Scientific Equipment Division until their move to London in 1983/4. The technical staff, sales and marketing personnel, draughtsmen and prototype engineers were housed there. It was converted to offices in 1993.The Argent Centre formerly Albert Works is owned by Midlands Industrial Association Ltd a registered friendly society whose aims and objectives are to encourage employment through the growth of the small firms sector by redeveloping redundant buildings in inner city brownfield sites. Midlands Industrial Associations Ltd is managed and run by Prince, Warnes Ltd. a specialist managed workspace consultancy. The Argent Centre provides workspace on a risk free monthly licence to give people the chance to develop their businesses without the risks normally associated with renting commercial property.( many other businesses, The Argent Centre is now home to the independent museum, The Pen MuseumThe only museum in the United Kingdom devoted to the history of the pen making industry - find out why Birmingham became the centre of the world pen trade.

Source: dbpedia

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