Georgian society to restore Dublin museum


THE IRISH Georgian Society has acquired the former Dublin Civic Museum on South William Street on a 30-year-lease from Dublin City Council and is due to renovate and refurbish the building which will become the society’s new headquarters.

The renovation, due to begin in the autumn, will take about two years at a cost of about €2 million, which the society hopes to raise through donations from society members in Ireland, the UK and US.

It will also receive contributions from Dublin City Council, which is to rent the space to the society at a nominal rate. Some funds have already been raised through supporters in New York, Chicago and Palm Beach, meaning the initial renovation and refurbishment work can begin as early as the autumn.

Executive director of the society, Donough Cahill, said the building was of huge historic importance to Dublin having housed what is thought to have been the first purpose-built public exhibition gallery in Ireland or the UK when it opened in the 18th century.

Octagonal in plan and originally lit by a single roof light, the ingeniously designed gallery was a much-sought venue for exhibitions among Ireland’s greatest painters in the second half of the 18th century, including such celebrated names as Thomas Roberts, William Ashford, George Barrett and Nathaniel Hone the Elder.

It was later acquired by Dublin Corporation, and was used by city councillors and aldermen for meeting rooms and a debating chamber up to the mid-19th century.

Most recently the building housed the Dublin Civic Museum, which closed eight years ago. Mr Cahill says the project will see the building restored to its rightful place as a historic attraction.

The society will carry out the restoration in three phases beginning with the front part of the building, which the society hopes to occupy as its headquarters from spring 2012. Thereafter work is to begin on the exterior of the building followed by a last phase focusing on the octagonal exhibition gallery to the rear.

The society hopes the restoration will be fully completed by 2016 to mark the 250th anniversary of the structure being built.

In a letter of support, Taoiseach Enda Kenny commended the plan.

“To restore to daily use this unique and very fine 18th century Georgian public building is inspirational and points to what can be achieved even in the most testing of economic times,” he said.