AN ICONIC tobacco warehouse in Greenock will open its doors to the public for the first time this month.

The historic five-storey building, which is located on the corner of Clarence, Hood and Haig streets, dates back to 1896.

Local architect Dominic Quigley has always been fascinated by it and asked owners if he could take a look around.

He was so thrilled at getting a rare chance to have a sneak peak at a part of Inverclyde’s heritage that he asked if the public could visit it too as part of the annual Doors Open Days weekend.

Owner and businessman Joseph White — who has a property portfolio which includes nightclubs Word Up and Harwoods and the old Gillespie’s furniture building — bought the warehouse 15 years ago and was happy to oblige.

He said: “We bought it to secure the cultural heritage of Greenock and the Inverclyde waterfront and put money into the infrastructure to restore the building.” The B-Listed bonded store, although known as a tobacco warehouse, was also used for the storage of whisky.

It was built by Greenock whisky distillers and blenders R Thorne & Sons Ltd.

Mark Brysland, the director of property for Mr White’s company, said: “I love the warehouse.

“We refurbished the lower units and let them out and I would like to see something happening to the building.

“It is of interest to young and old people alike and there may be some people who are still alive who worked here.” During the painstaking refurbishment — which included the installation of two new roofs — workers became detectives to uncover an interesting part of its history as accommodation for American soldiers during World War Two.

Chris Fitzharris, who runs a property maintenance company and helped to refurbish the warehouse, says the building was also used as a billet for US servicemen.

He said: “I helped to clean the place out because there was a problem with pigeons on the top floor and we had to perspex the windows.

“It was then I noticed World War Two GI graffiti.

“The soldiers had written their names on the window frames.

“There was a Major Collie Douglas with his serial number 4011, who I believe was awarded the Bronze Star, and another Sergeant Henry R Lee, of Los Angeles, California.

“It’s amazing — it’s fascinating to think of these American GIs lying three-deep in a billet here.” Building owner Mr White says he has tried over the years to find a new purpose for the local landmark.

There were hopes it could be used as a campus for West Scotland College, but this fell through.

Artists have also shown interest in using it as a studio, while other ideas put forward have included a gym and a mixed use development of residential apartments, office space and workshops. Mr White said: “It’s a wonderful building sitting here going to waste. I would like to use it.” Local architect and enthusiast Dominic has been working with Inverclyde Community Development Trust and has constructed a timeline history display to go on show inside the warehouse, while artists from the Absent Voices project will offer workshops there.

The warehouse will be open from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 14 September and 15 September.