Last Georgian house on Dublin’s O’Connell Street is at risk from neglect

No 42 ‘survived war and rebellion’ but delays in redevelopment spark fears for its future

Number 42 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin, was built in the ‘boom times of the 1750s’, said TCD’s Dr Melanie Hayes. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Number 42 Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin, was built in the ‘boom times of the 1750s’, said TCD’s Dr Melanie Hayes. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Fears are growing for the fate of the last remaining Georgian house on Dublin’s O’Connell Street due to ongoing delays in the redevelopment of the old Carlton cinema site.

Number 42 Upper O’Connell Street was built in the “boom times of the 1750s”, said Trinity College Dublin professor Dr Melanie Hayes, and is of “exceptional architectural quality”. However, it remains at risk as its vacancy continues, she said.

“O’Connell Street Upper, originally Sackville Street Upper and Gardiner’s Mall, was built by Luke Gardiner in the mid-18th century and was a pioneering example of high-class domestic development on a continental European scale,” said Dr Hayes. “Number 42 has survived war and rebellion, decay and decline, but its once-magnificent interiors lie vacant – save for some winged squatters.”

The house was originally owned by Robert Robinson, State physician and professor of anatomy at Trinity College. Its neighbours at number 40 and 41 were demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the construction of the Royal Dublin Hotel. Number 42 was incorporated into the hotel in 1972, but remained intact.

Shopping centre

The hotel was demolished a decade ago as part of developer Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land plans for a €1.25 billion shopping centre on a site that stretched from the Carlton cinema on O’Connell Street to Moore Street, but number 42, which is on the Record of Protected Structures, was left standing.

In 2015, UK property group Hammerson took over a number of Chartered Land assets, including the Carlton site, as part of the Nama portfolio known as Project Jewel. In 2016, it secured a five-year extension of the planning permission for the shopping centre, but it is likely to submit a fresh application for the site later this year, following appointment of a new architect last year.

The importance of number 42 must not be overlooked in the redevelopment of the site, Dr Hayes said.

“The previous plans included having a gallery space as part of number 42. It warrants full restoration to a compatible cultural use, but what is most important is that its exceptional architectural quality and its remaining features are handled sensitively.”

Historic fabric

The deterioration of its remaining historic fabric was “a real concern” if it continued to be left vacant, she said.

A spokesman for Hammerson said the building was “protected and very well preserved”. The company was engaging with the Moore Street advisory group with a view to reaching consensus on a new plan for the site, he said.

Dr Hayes will present her research on the development of O’Connell Street at “Developing Dublin”, a public discussion in Trinity on Thursday evening. The event will also hear from Dr Cian O’Callaghan, assistant professor in Geography, who will discuss the use of vacant sites in Dublin in the decade since the crash, particularly their use by alternative social and cultural projects; and from Ger Casey, chief executive of Grangegorman Development Agency. on the development of the new DIT campus.

The event is fully booked but can be viewed live at 6.30pm on Thursday February 7th at facebook.com/trinitylongroomhub/videos/420629278709455/