Queenstown was an important port of call for the big liners. A huge wave of emigration from Europe to America saw thousands of emigrants depart from Queenstown aboard ship, heading for a new life in the United States. Amongst those companies was the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, founded by Thomas Henry Ismay and officially registered as a company on 6 September 1869.
He took over the name White Star Line from a bankrupt shipping line first founded in 1845. Immediately, an order was placed with the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff for four liners. The company soon expanded its fleet with vessels sailing on routes from Liverpool via Queenstown to New York, South America (later disbanded) and the Pacific.
In 1907, with the introduction of express services from Southampton via Cherbourg and Queenstown to New York, a return call at Queenstown was replaced with one at Plymouth. However, the company's Liverpool to New York service continued to call at Queenstown on both outward and homeward legs of the voyage.
The same year the White Star Line drew up plans for a new class of White Star liners, the largest and most luxurious ever to set to sea. They were to be a third as large again as the new Cunard vessels Lusitania and Mauretania, and would exceed eight hundred feet in length. The new liners would bear the names Olympic and Titanic and would serve on the Southampton - New York service via Cherbourg and Queenstown.
The company's activities in Queenstown were managed by the company of Messrs, James Scott and Company. Their building was right on the harbour front in Queenstown. As official representatives for the White Star Line, they managed the transfers of passengers and mails to White Star Line vessels. Here, on 11 April 1912 some 123 passengers congregated at the White Star Line building, before being ferried out to the White Star Line Titanic, on her first and last voyage.
Viewed from Casement Square the building stands on a piano nobile, with steps up from the street. At street level there are walls either side of the steps, with piers at each end. The piers are topped with a pyramidal top, with the central piers having a rusticated appearance.
The building frontage is five bays wide, with the central bay having a wide, arched doorway providing access into the building. The two outer bays on each side are bordered on both sides by rusticated pilasters. Above is a projecting, shallow hipped roof.
The building has a single-bay wing on either side; the left-hand side bay is set back further than that on the right, with steps up to an additional doorway.
From the harbour (illustrated above), the lower storey and upper piano nobile can clearly be seen. The windows on the lower storey are arched, with only the central bay above having a wide, arched window. The piano nobile storey is set back forming a balcony-type area.
Today the building houses the Titanic Experience Cobh, a heritage attraction. The experience lets visitors follow in the footsteps of passengers who boarded the paddle steamers America and Ireland at the pier just behind the building. It also houses recreations of first and third-class rooms aboard the Titanic.