A hobby of mine is taking pictures of buildings around the Isle of Man that have caught my attention, for good or bad reasons. I thought I might post a few here, starting with this great big gateau of a construction, at the southern end of Douglas Promenade.
This was originally built as The Grand Hotel, at the peak of the Manx Tourism Era. In the 1890s, it was bought by a Mr Litefoot, who turned part of the site into a theatre – a detail that might amuse some of you.
Two world wars and the invention of cheap packages to places that guaranteed warmth and sunshine took their toll on the Manx tourist industry. Behemoth hotels like The Grand became inevitably unsustainable.
Decades later, after spending time languishing as a Yates’s Wine Lodge, the building gained a new lease of life in the 1980s as the delightfully notorious Bushy’s Brew Pub.
Bikers, students, goths, and office escapees coexisted good-naturedly among the decaying grandeur. There was a miniature Statue of Liberty in the centre of the concert room, and the ladies toilet was accessed via a Doctor Who-style police telephone box placed in front of the doorway.
The mildew, sweat, and Benson and Hedges smoke probably held Bushy’s together towards the end. It could never have survived in the modern pub environment of organic food, family-friendly facilities, and non-toxic air. Bushy’s closed in 1998 and these days is better off as a hazy, smoky, sticky-floored memory.
Now, the interior has been sterilised and sanitised, revamped, and rebuilt. Like a lot of the more eye-catching architecture in downtown Douglas, it’s just home to office work.
But with good lighting and a bit of imagination, the outside still gives a glimpse of the building’s days of decadent leisure. Some still refer to the place as Bushy’s. Some still refer to the place as Yates’s. Not so many refer to it as The Grand. Which is a shame on nights when the façade is lit up, glowing white against the darkness, like a phantom.
It might only be a ghost of its past as a place of pleasure, but it’s a Grand Ghost.