The GPO: then and now
A new interactive visitor centre, GPO Witness History, has been built in the building that was at the centre of the rising.
The GPO in O’Connell street, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke
- Following the Rising only the frontal façade and portico, built from Portland stone in 1818, remained, including the six original Ionic columns. The rest was a burning, roofless mound of granite rubble.
- When the GPO was rebuilt in 1929 much of the internal layout of the building was altered, and the new building was around double in size.
- Today’s main public office is situated, as it was in 1916, along the eastern side of of the building.
- In the first hours of the Rising the partitions between the public office and sorting office – situated on the ground floor corner with Henry Street–- were torn down. Today this corner is part of the entrance hallway for the new GPO Witness History exhibition.
- In 1916, in the courtyard behind the main public office, horses and carts would have come in and out of the distribution centre office taking mail, along with some motorcars. This is where the new two-storey GPO Witness History building now stands, with an exhibition space in the basement and a landscaped courtyard space above.
- In 1916 a telegraph room had handled the country’s telegrams on the second floor of the GPO. Some telephone work was also done on this floor to supplement the exchange at Crown Alley. Today this area remains in use by An Post clerical staff.
- At the time of the Rising three statues gazed down upon Sackville Street from atop the GPO. These were Mercury, the Roman messenger god; Fidelity, representing trust in the post; and, at the centre, Hibernia – the embodiment of Ireland.
- The originals survived the 1916 Rising but, scarred by war and acid rain, they were replaced in the 1970s.
- The balustrade on the roof was replaced in the 1990s to repair the repair work done in the 1920s after independence.
- A royal coat of arms on the portico’s central triangular pediment was removed by the Irish Free State in the 1920s.