The scene of one of the first casualties of the 1916 Rising, the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park, is being opened to the public for the first time, 28 years after it was closed as a military installation.
The ammunitions storage depot was built in 1734 to a French star fort design, with additions in the 19th century to accommodate military families, and a bakery shed in the 20th century to feed the soldiers.
Chief park superintendent Margaret Gormley said it was important to open it to the public this year because of its significance in 1916. The revolutionaries wanted to blow it up to mark the start of the Rising, she said. "Nora O'Daly was sent by Cumann na mBan on Easter Saturday to see the times of the changing of the guard."
But on the day of the attack, the officer in charge had gone to the races, with the key of the magazine in his pocket. George Playfair, son of the fort commander, went to raise the alarm and was shot.
Handed over to the OPW in 1988, its condition deteriorated, not helped by antisocial behaviour and the theft of lead work in the roof, which caused extensive damp in the magazines, the stores for the weaponry, ammunition and gunpowder. Work on stabilising the extensive building, the only fort left in Dublin, and the start of a major restoration project, began in the past two months. It is being led by OPW conservation architect Fergus McCormick.
He highlighted the extent of the excavation and restoration work involved.
“We have taken out the stone ramparts which have no foundations,” he said. The foundations had collapsed and the stones have been numbered and stored, to be reinstated on restored foundations. The public will get a chance to see the work as it progresses and will have an opportunity to walk along part of the ramparts that have been stabilised, including a wheelchair accessible ramp to an elevated platform to take in the views overlooking the war memorial gardens.
All the ramparts on the extensive fort building have to be repaired, along with the two full magazines and a half magazine. The site includes a blast wall, built to limit damage in the event of an explosion.
Located beside the Islandbridge Gate of the park, the fort will be partially open to the public for guided tours every Sunday and Friday until the end of October, starting this weekend.
Tickets are available on a first come first served basis from the visitor centre, with tours for up to 20 people at 10am, noon and 2.30pm. There will be a bus to take people from the visitor centre to the fort.