Blackrock ballroom where Dev once lived for €1,395,000
The three-bedroom East Wing of Bellevue, once the home of de Valera, is steeped in history
The only entire family group photograph taken of the de Valera family: (back l-r) Rúairí, Vivion, Éamon and Brian; (middle l-r) Máirín, Sinéad, Dev and Emer; and (front) Terry. Taken at Bellevue, in July 1935.
I don’t really picture Éamon de Valera dancing at grand balls, twirling ladies in silk shoes and chiffon round the floor. Instead, I rather see him frowning with vague disapproval, despite his references to comely maidens, dancing and crossroads. Whatever his feelings might have been, his former ballroom is up for sale.
The East Wing of Bellevue, which de Valera lived in with his family between 1933 and 1940, housed the ballroom of what is one of the oldest houses on elegant Cross Avenue in Blackrock. In 1937, the Irish Constitution was drafted here, although it would be impossible to tell whether they did that in the East Wing, West Wing or in the middle bit – you see the house is now divided into three, although the thickness of Georgian walls means you’re not aware of your neighbours once inside.
The current owners, Hugh and Ann Brady, both architects, then added their own layer of history, and the interior is a period-piece of Modernist design. It featured on completion in 1968, in an Irish Times article in the “Women First” section. “Why shouldn’t kitchens be at the front of the house [...]I like to see what’s going on while I’m working,” Mrs Brady is reported as having said at the time. The house, at just over 285 sqm, is laid out over four floors, with an unexpectedly bright and spacious basement, which could be a study area, games room, gym, or maybe make a further bedroom.
On the entrance floor is the kitchen, which, at more than 20 sq m goes from the front to the back of the house, and so has light all day. Opposite is the sitting room, with an open fire. Then, up the open wooden stairs, are three bedrooms, one with an en suite. Up another flight is another, rather special, wood-panelled room in the eaves, which has been in use as a fourth bedroom.
The house is full of architectural tricks, such as voids between floors, and, what must have been outlandishly innovative at the time, a kitchen island. Some of these have stood the test of time better than others, and it’s interesting to see which of the period’s innovations have endured into contemporary design. It’s rather heartbreaking (for those who love early Modernism) to think that the new owners are unlikely to preserve much of it – especially not the wardrobes in the master bedroom, which have a surprising textured padding to them, making me realise that even the most pioneering of the period’s devotees still wanted a little softness.
Instead, what should tempt people to Bellevue are the hardwood floors, the gorgeously generous Georgian windows that flood the house with light; the curving walls betraying its ballroom origins; the mature gardens which are currently open, though new owners may want to enclose them, depending on the nature of children and dogs; and the location. Of course the location: this is the road where ambassadors live, and where Glenvar took us back in time, when it sold, in January this year for €5.25 million.
Down the road is Blackrock, and up the road Mount Merrion. There are buses, the Dart, schools, shops and restaurants. It would suit a family, but also, particularly, anyone downsizing who couldn’t quite bring themselves to leave this salubrious area.