For sale: IFA puts historic HQ where designer of Titanic once lived on the market
The Belfast headquarters of the Irish Football Association - once home to Titanic designer Thomas Andrews - is to go on the market.
The IFA is due to move to new accommodation in February and has confirmed that the Windsor Avenue building is to go up for sale.
The football organisation bought the building in 1960 from the Dixon family, who gave their name to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park. But just over 100 years ago, it was the home where Thomas Andrews lived with his young family.
Its ornate staircase is said to have inspired the world-famous split staircase on the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
The IFA says the house was built in 1863 and many period features remain, including the original staircase, stained glass windows and period fireplaces.
It also boasts a blue plaque indicating the Titanic links of the property. An extension was built in 1995, adding extra office accommodation and around 40 IFA employees now work there, although the sporting organisation also rents office space at Apollo Road.
IFA president Jim Shaw said the house was opened up to Titanic events on the centenary of the liner's sinking in 2012 and also opens every year for European Heritage open days.
"The story goes that the staircase on the Titanic was modelled on the staircase in the house. It has a split staircase up to the top floor," he said.
It was this house that Thomas Andrews set off from when he was making his way to Southampton for the Titanic's maiden voyage, never to return. The designer went down with the ship.
"A pony and trap took him from Windsor Avenue to the Belfast docks and the rest is history," Mr Shaw said.
Visitors who are keen to learn about the Titanic's history come to the house from time to time by arrangement, he said. "They come and see the offices, where Thomas Andrews lived, and we let them go up the famous stairs as well. We get some of the people who came to visit the Titanic centre who are in the area and wish to see where he was living when he designed the ship."
The house was rented by Thomas Andrews from WR Patterson and was known as Dunallan, the residence where his daughter Elba was born.
Although originally numbered 12, the number has changed three times over the past 100 years, and is now number 20.
The last time Andrews saw the house was on the morning of April 2, 1912. He was picked up by a driver and a horse and carriage in the driveway of Windsor Avenue and taken to the shipyard where Titanic was to hold her sea trials before departing for Southampton that evening.
An IFA spokesman said: "There is an attachment to the building given that it has been the home of football in Northern Ireland for 55 years. However, the Irish Football Association is moving to new offices at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park so there is also a huge amount of excitement at the change."