After four decades, the Rowan family are finally leaving their landmark family home, writes MICHAEL PARSONS
BOOTERSTOWN AND Buenos Aries have little in common. But the south Dublin suburb – and the sultry, tango-dancing South American city share one unlikely feature. Both have landmark pink houses. The Argentinian presidential palace, Casa Rosada, is probably the world’s most famous house of that hue (admittedly there isn’t great competition) while St Mary’s – a private residence – is a strikingly familiar landmark to passers-by on Booterstown Avenue.
Pink may be a ubiquitous colour in warmer climates (“the navy blue of India” and all that) but it’s a daringly brave choice beneath 50 shades of grey Dublin sky.
Informally known to locals as “the Pink House”, St Mary’s is for sale by private treaty though Savills with an asking price of €1.95 million.
The location is about half-way down Booterstown Avenue – a hilly road which links the N11 at Mount Merrion to Rock Road by the sea.
The five-bedroom, two-storey- over-basement Georgian house has 3,785sq ft of accommodation. It is built on the site of a former castle and may well be Booterstown’s oldest residential site.
The detached house, with many original features (including high ceilings, shutters, numerous fireplaces), is in good structural condition – and was re-roofed 10 years ago – but will require modernising by new owners. New bathrooms and kitchen for starters. But such considerations are unlikely to deter prospective buyers as this large family home is within walking distance of some of Ireland’s best schools including St Andrew’s College, Blackrock College and Willow Park School.
Public transport links include a Dart station and proximity to good bus routes – which is handy as the house has off-street parking for just one car.
The garden/basement level is currently arranged as a self-contained apartment which could continue to provide a rental income; be used as a “granny flat”; or, be brought back in to the house.
The 136ft-long rear garden has a large patio, lawn, various seating areas, a log cabin, a vegetable garden and a small orchard of plum, pear and apple trees. Janet Carroll of Savills described St Mary’s as “an exceptional family home in a prime location which has got everything”.
Booterstown, wedged between Sandymount and Blackrock, has long been a desirable address and, as long ago as 1837, English topographer Samuel Lewis described its location “on the southern coast of Dublin bay, the shores of which here assume a most interesting and beautifully picturesque appearance” with “numerous handsome seats and villas”.
The area, he observed was “much frequented during the summer season on account of its facilities for sea-bathing and its fine strand of smooth sand” and “numerous lodging-houses have been prepared for the accommodation of visitors”.
He noted, approvingly, that “the two-penny post has three deliveries daily from the metropolis, and a constant and rapid communication with the city is maintained by the railway and by cars, which ply in both directions”.
Well, the postal service has certainly declined and those in search of sea-bathing now fly further afield – but not much else has changed.
The new owners of St Mary’s face one immediate decision. The colour is fading gently and the house needs to be re-painted.
Rowan family protest against banks during 1970 crisis 'They're amassing huge profits.'
For four decades, St Mary’s in Booterstown Avenue has been home to the well-known Rowan family. In 1975, at a time when Irish banks were still treated with general deference, businessman Fergus Rowan came to national prominence when he campaigned against what he claimed were unfair banking practices.
The family business, Rowan Ltd – suppliers of horticultural seeds and machinery – was put in to receivership by Bank of Ireland. Mr Rowan and some of his children occupied the bank’s premises in Westmoreland Street and their protest received widespread media coverage and public sympathy.
The protest eventually ended when the High Court ordered the Rowans to cease trespassing on the bank’s property but not before Mr Rowan told the judge: “While normally I am a law-abiding citizen, and I abhor violence, at the same time I find myself in a position that I am confronted by banks which, during a period of great economic crisis, are amassing huge profits and they are being allowed to do so and they are imposing huge burdens of debt and usury on the very hard-pressed community. And when the community fails to carry this load of debt the banks are closing on these unfortunate people and this is happening in a so-called Christian society . . .”
Mr Rowan had the bittersweet victory of living to see his antipathy to the banks vindicated. He died, aged 84, in September 2008 just days before the government revealed the vast scale of the financial collapse and the introduction of the “bank guarantee”.
His wife, Kathleen Rowan, an elegant and engaging octogenarian, recalls many happy years in “The Pink House” where she “reared 10 children”.
With the family now grown up, she has decided to sell St Mary’s and is, reluctantly, downsizing.
St Marys, Booterstown Avenue
Description: Landmark period house in prime location