ESB seeks to turn museum into luxury apartments for sale

Irish Georgian Society opposes move, saying it would be a ‘sad and significant loss’

The ESB is seeking to convert a museum in a restored Georgian house on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street into luxury apartments. The Georgian House Museum opened in 1991. Video: Bryan O'Brien (Interior clips: ESB/www.numbertwentynine.ie)

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The ESB is seeking to convert a museum in a restored Georgian house on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street into luxury apartments despite opposition from a leading heritage group.

The Irish Georgian Society said the move would be a “sad and significant loss” to the city and the public experience of its 18th century heritage.

The Georgian House Museum at 29 Fitzwilliam Street, opened in 1991 to celebrate Dublin’s status as European Cultural Capital, was operated by the ESB and the National Museum of Ireland as an exhibition of “Dublin home life from 1790 to 1820”.

The building had been restored by the ESB in 1988 as part of a deal with Dublin Corporation, agreed a decade earlier, to allow the company to exceed standard plot ratios in its expansion of its 1960s office complex.

In the mid-1960s 16 Georgian houses on Fitzwilliam Street were demolished to make way for the company’s new headquarters, designed by Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney.

The museum was temporarily closed in 2017 to facilitate the demolition of the Stephenson/Gibney building and the construction of a new ESB headquarters. However, as the new building nears completion, the ESB said it does not intend to reopen the museum and instead has applied to Dublin City Council to convert the building into three apartments, which it intends to sell individually.

Donough Cahill, executive director of the Irish Georgian Society, said the museum provided “a unique opportunity for visitors to experience the architecture and the fine and decorative arts of a Georgian townhouse”.

He commended the company for its vision in creating and sustaining the museum “and in doing so demonstrated its credentials as a company with a ‘commitment to preserving Ireland’s heritage and environment’.”

He said the company should provide a new location for the museum if it was determined to shut it down.

An ESB spokesman said the apartments “will deliver the highest levels of residential accommodation to best modern standards” . The company had “no future plans for a museum”, and it was “never envisaged that exhibition would run forever”.

“Since 1991 there is a changed landscape in terms of historical/heritage offerings, with many museum/heritage alternatives now available. ESB’s commitment to heritage activities is now more closely linked to our corporate responsibilities – but not diminished, ” he said.