The Irish-American philanthropist and collector Richard Driehaus, who has died in his hometown of Chicago, was an apostle of classic architecture. In addition to restoring several Gilded Age mansions in Chicago, he invested in two landmark buildings in Dublin.
His Staunton's on the Green hotel occupies a pair of adjoining Georgian townhouses on St Stephen's Green in Dublin; Number 31, the other Dublin hotel he owned, is in a Georgian townhouse that also boasts a modernist mews.
When it came to supporting architecture, the 78-year-old put his money where his mouth was by establishing an annual $200,000 award, the Richard H Driehaus Prize, presented through the University of Notre Dame school of architecture, for classical, traditional and sustainable architecture. "The problem is there's no poetry in modern architecture," Driehaus said in an interview with Chicago magazine in 2007. "Classicism has a mysterious power. It's part of our past and how we evolved as human beings and as a civilisation."
Driehaus acquired Staunton’s on the Green, which backs on to the Iveagh Gardens, in 2017, and it now has an abundance of that mysterious power he described. While most of its period features remain resolutely Georgian, the decor is inspired by the Jazz Age, meticulously undertaken by the decorator Nigel Howard, with many pieces supplied by the antiques dealer Niall Mullen. Driehaus visited the Francis Street shop and selected many of the pieces personally.
A notable addition is a Harry Clarke window that he had installed last summer. An ardent fan of stained glass, he had a collection that includes numerous pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Driehaus made his fortune as a fund manager and was known for the extravagant parties he threw. At one such party he arrived dressed as a ringmaster and riding an elephant. “He was a man from another era,” says Ray Byrne, a director of Nhance, which runs Staunton’s and Number 31. That Georgian townhouse fronts on to Fitzwilliam Place but is accessed via its mews on Leeson Close. The mews, once the home of the brutalist architect Sam Stephenson, includes an era-defining conversation pit.
While Stephenson’s body of work would have clashed with Driehaus’s aesthetic, the champion of classicism was agreeable to an art-deco-inspired refurbishment – a meeting in the middle of both epoques. A wooden desk that had previously served as the counter at Mitofsky antiques in Terenure now sits in the room Driehaus had planned to stay in upon his return to Dublin last March. The trip was cancelled as a result of Covid-19 travel restrictions. Driehuas died from a brain haemorrhage at his home in Chicago on March 9th.