rebuilding of the Custom House after 1921 fire

rebuilding of the Custom House after 1921 fire

Postby Joseph Kennedy » Mon Jul 05, 2004 2:16 pm

Can anyone tell me when the Custom House rebuilding started, who the builder was, and how long did the rebuilding take.
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Postby GrahamH » Mon Jul 05, 2004 10:33 pm

The OPW were in charge of the rebuilding - and it began a few years later in 1926 through to 1930, although site behind the facades was cleared in 1922 I think.
There's extensive details in the book 'Building for Government' by the OPW, just don't have it here at the moment, but they did something of an economy job on the decorative elements, using concrete aggregates to re-cast the balusters and plinth of the balustrade instead of Portland stone, and the 6 niches to the front were replaced with windows for the new offices.
The greatest loss externally is there for the world to see of course - the drum of the dome was rebuilt in Ardbraccan limestone (think Leinster House is built of it, and a different variety with Charlemont House) which is has darkened substantially since. It must have looked amazing in the Portland stone, matching the river front, and blazed brightly in the sun.
I can get a few date snippets from the book at home - if that's any help.
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Postby dc3 » Tue Jul 06, 2004 2:03 pm

This is I believe also covered fairly well in the hard to find book about James Gandon, which a library should turn up for you on inter library loan. My copy is at home so I cannot give you more detail and it is a while since I looked at it.

There were very substantial changes to the design, as Mr Hickey has said. So when you view from the Gardiner St side, dont blame Mr Gandon.
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Postby GregF » Tue Jul 06, 2004 3:04 pm

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Postby Devin » Tue Jul 06, 2004 4:57 pm

There are some good notes on the rebuilding of the Custom House (and the Four Courts) in the back of 'Dublin 1660-1860' by Maurice Craig. He goes through the various deviations from the original design.
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Postby GrahamH » Wed Jul 07, 2004 10:59 pm

Had a look at the book - the reconstruction programme was from 1926 to 1929, with works finishing in 1930. 230,000 bricks from the original structure were re-used.
In the major restoration of 1984-91, many of the inappropriate changes were rectified such as replacing concrete castings with Portland, which were unaffordable in the 20s.

Albeit a near total reconstruction, the north front is still my favourite - I have a soft spot for flat porticos, and the statuary perched on top give the charming impression of being on display on a mantelpiece, especially with the top storey behind. This central part, complete with deep arches is a magnificent piece of architecture, and much more interesting than the south facade - while impressive and exquisitely proportioned, I think becomes boring rather quickly.
And the tall and narrow drum of the dome looks out of place when viewed head on, a problem confounded with the new dark stone, which merely highlights the issue and further detaches the structure from the rest of the building.
I got the book recently you mentioned dc3, there's one copy left (bit battered) in Hodges Figgis, where I scoured every shelf in the place till I found it in a darkened corner!
It notes that Gardiner St was laid out where it is purely to allign with Beresford's apartments on the north front - and considering the vista of a bit of the rear-end of the dome is far from planned for the street's benefit, this would appear to be the case.

Very few people have been inside to the Visitor's Centre, it's worth a visit, the carved Bath stone is so crisp and perfect, and the views from inside under the south portico to the river are extraordinary. Think it's €2 in, and free for students.
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Postby Devin » Wed Jul 07, 2004 11:20 pm

Omitted to say that the book I mentioned was published in 1952! Many inappropriate changes to the Custom house have, as you say Graham, been rectified since (changes have also been made to the Four Courts since, the main one being the re-instatement of the panelled blocks in the centres of the blocking courses on the front of the wings, an important architectural dressing).

I think it was the direction of the wind on the day of the fire that saved the front bit (visitors centre) of the Custom House.
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Postby GrahamH » Thu Jul 08, 2004 8:40 pm

Yes - it wrecked the north front instead! That's why the granite on this side is decidedly 20s parish church-like in it's newness, which unfortunately impinges on the history and atmosphere of the place. Presumably the Long Room and Beresford's luxurious chambers at this side went up in a flash, considering the OPW book mentions even brass fittings melting in the ferocious heat - which took months to cool down.

There's still some carved sculpture sitting in the grounds from one of the restoration jobs, and as late as what would appear to be 1997, some old drainpipes on the south front were moved to behind the stonework, which made a big difference to the facade of the central part (you can still see them sticking out near the ground)

The only aspect of the meticulous job the OPW carried out latterly that I'd question is the use of the gold-tipped railings to the front to protect the building from vandalism - what's with the naff gold? And the railing profile is very modern. Why not stick with the classic that is the humble Dublin Georgian railing - if nothing else their simplicity would have been financially attractive, let alone visually.
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Re: rebuilding of the Custom House after 1921 fire

Postby Paul Clerkin » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:52 pm

E.O. Hoppé photograph, 1925
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Re: rebuilding of the Custom House after 1921 fire

Postby Paul Clerkin » Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:40 pm

Launch of the city of Dublin life-boat at the Custom-House Quay, Dublin, Genuine original antique engraving, 1867;

Interesting because its illustrating one of the docks that used to be beside the Customs House
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Re: rebuilding of the Custom House after 1921 fire

Postby Satrastar » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:52 pm

I think it would be wonderful if the drum was reclad in Portland stone and the chimneys were re-instated.

It would also be wonderful if the liberty hall and Irish Life were removed
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