York Street

York Street

Postby aj » Wed Oct 05, 2005 9:49 am

I have heard that the entire row of Georgian houses in York street are to be demolished and replaced by another faceless appartment block. I thought by now we would have learned the folly of demolishing Georgian houses to put up crap in there place...the city is littered with examples of this.. I believe that these building where listed...then the doorways where listed... now nothing is listed. Is there any chance of saving these building or is another Georgian terrace doomed
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Re: York Street

Postby Andrew Duffy » Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:21 am

They aren't Georgian, they are 1940s replicas. It is possible that some of the doorcases are original.
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Re: York Street

Postby aj » Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:54 am

Andrew Duffy wrote:They aren't Georgian, they are 1940s replicas. It is possible that some of the doorcases are original.


thanks for that Andrew, not being a dub i didnt realise that.. i was wonder how on earth they could get away demolishing them many thanks
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Re: York Street

Postby Punchbowl » Wed Oct 05, 2005 11:59 am

Here's one of those creepy Ghost SIgns from fjp..

Was there ever commercial premises on this street ?
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Re: York Street

Postby JPD » Wed Oct 05, 2005 12:53 pm

Not on that stretch back towards Aungier St would have been mixed use
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Wed Oct 05, 2005 11:18 pm

What was on the c1970 flats' sites on both sides before they were built? And if tenements, of what kind?
Is it proposed to demolish these PVC-clad monsters?

Sorry for the res of these pics below, they're from about a year ago.

It seems these simple but beautifully carved granite doorcases with corbels are original; they are in the fashion of the 1750s-60s but could be later given their secondary location:

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By contrast these (nonetheless elegant) doorcases appear to date from the terrace's reconstruction in the 1940s, and seem to be cast in concrete of all materials, with very light, probably unintentional fluting to the columns due to the way they were cast:

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From a few steps back they look very convincing, the only giveaway being the ill-proportioned bases of the columns :)
I think there's four of both types of doorcase in the terrace.

The plinths of the railings appear to be granite rather than concrete, and could concievably be original, though the railings are clearly modern.

There's lots of old brickwork surviving in the facade too - hope to get some better pics tomorrow. It's interesting to see how the architect was mindful of the original brick in using a plum-coloured variety to York St, while to the rear the terrace is clad in the standard of the era - that glossy, orangey 1940s-early 50s brick.

Does anyone know if these houses were originally built as fashionable townhouses, or were they always apartments of some kind?
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Re: York Street

Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Oct 05, 2005 11:23 pm

I think they were built as flats - I haver somewhere a copy of a UK magazine with two or three pages on the architecture scene in Dublin - page has a drawing is of Busaras, while there are photographs of these.
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Wed Oct 05, 2005 11:28 pm

Yes but from earlier again - i.e. were they originally 18th century townhouses and later converted to tenements and then in c1950 rebuilt as what exists today - or were they built in the 18th century/early 19th as purpose built tenements or apartments then?

As you noted before, it goes to show what a buzzing place Dublin was in the 50s for these to be included :)
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:16 pm

Well here are a few more pics of the terrace. A City Council official who happened to be on the street when I was there very kindly opened up to let me have a look inside (hope I don't get him into trouble now :))

The interior as you might expect is very dismal indeed. The one/two houses closest to the Green are quite literally falling part internally; parts of the ceilings have collapsed and there is water pouring through the roof down through the floors below. It seems squatters got in here at some stage too.
The condition of the interiors improves the further up the street you go.

The hallways are fitted out 1940s style, with a rounded dado rail embedded in the plaster about halfway up the walls. This is quite literally it decoration-wise - there is nothing to be damaged, broken or stolen from the place, with bare walls, seemingly bare concrete floors and staircases, and basic lighting facilities.

As you might imagine it was pitch black for the most part inside – here’s a main stairwell:

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The window up on the half landing there lets in very little light - this is because it is in the very heart of the building. It seems the terrace was constructed with narrow light wells running vertically through the building between each ‘house’. You can see one exposed at the very end of the terrace here:

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Presumably in a health-obsessed age these were installed to also provide ventilation for bathrooms and bedrooms in the centre of the building – something of a hangover from the Victorians.

Here is where the ‘York St Fire’ happened about 4 years ago, caused by a lighted candle. This is presumably when plans got underway for the terrace’s demolition.

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The apartment was scorched out of it, and obviously hasn’t been touched since. Nice 1940s door there with original Bakelite black handle. Lots of these about.

And the inside of one of the 18th century doorcases:

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It’s interesting to see that the fanlights are still serving the function intended 250 years ago, lighting the hallways. They’re the only source of natural light.


Another interior detail in all hallways and flats is that shudder-inducing 1940s institutional coving :) - all smothered in obligatory gloss paint:

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Most flats have a picture rail so it seems to have been a standard fitting.


The fundamental issue that caused the CC to propose demolition according to the man today is fire safety; the Fire Officer was not at all happy with the security of the building, as was proven on the day of the fire. Given the flat was right next to the bottom of a stairs, in order to get out it seems everyone above would have had to pass by that very flaming flat. Coupled with dodgy fire exits that the residents have been giving out about for a long time, it is no wonder the City Council want to see the back of it.

The building has no central heating – all flats are heated by traditional hearths (which makes fire safety a million times worse again), there is no insulation – heat or sound, and the communal areas are similar to that of a tenement block in Moscow.
Also as can be seen from outside, all electrics in the various flats are exposed in conduiting running up the walls to a central box that runs the length of each room.
Even the ceiling pendant wiring is exposed!

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This all perhaps suggests that the entire building is a bomb-proof solid concrete frame just like the Corporation housing then going up in the new suburbs, hence all services had to be surface mounted.


Back outside again, you can see work has been underway in removing all the sashes to the York St façade:

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How sad. They’re due to be knocked in only three weeks time. I should have objected at the time to the delisting of the doorcases, so really don’t have a leg to stand on in that respect, but it really is a pity to see this unique streetscape disappearing.
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:18 pm

Here’s some detail of the original doorcases. An IT article I’ve just found says the terrace dates to 1750 so that definitely explains these corbelled doors:

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And some elegantly simple granite moulding round the edges:

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And here’s a column and plinth from the seemingly concrete doorcases from the 40s:

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The official said that all of the 8 doorcases will be stored and probably used in another scheme rather than the York St development which is a shame – they ought to stay where they belong (whatever about on their original façade :mad: )


He was also keen to point out that ‘our architecture people’ have passed the scheme off as not being of architectural merit, and that the scheme dates from the 1940s and is not Georgian. He knew quite a lot about it when he got going – that the railing plinths are reconstituted stone rather than natural stone (that explains the non-concrete appearance anyway :)):

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…and that some of the doorcases were older than others, though did seem reluctant to admit this.

Here’s the very extensive amount of what can only be Georgian brickwork in the central part of the terrace, with only the top floor rebuilt in plum brick:

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The difference is clear:

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…and is especially evident in this picture where even an original doorcase is sited on the old brick (though you can see it was placed here in the reconstruction given the modern brick around the pediment):

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You can as good as see the original townhouse!
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:20 pm

Likewise here you can see how the architect was very conscious of the Georgian character of the street, choosing to respect the varying parapet heights and plot widths that make up Georgian Dublin rather than build a faceless intimidating block:

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All in all, I think it is a great shame to see a unique Dublin streetscape – which is what it is, not just a building – disappearing, only to be replaced with more flats.
Even if the terrace contained no 18th century elements, it would still be worthy of note as a very rare example of neo-Georgian in Ireland. The fact that it was included in the architectural publication from the 1950s Paul mentions, however bizarre it may be, I think highlights the significance in which the design chosen was held at the time.

It not only seems to have been built on the back of the fashion of 10-15 years previous in the UK, but also perhaps the beginning of Dublin opening its eyes and appreciating its Georgian heritage. It was the 1930s when this began to happen on a number of levels, including Constantia Maxwell’s unusually glowing publication about Georgian Dublin, printed and reprinted in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The fact that the Corporation chose to rebuild the terrace in a Georgian fashion, even ulitising many original elements is nothing short of incredible! Surely it would have been so much easier to sweep it all away and build a modern apartment block of concrete and render with steel windows?

In the context of the exclusively Georgian St Stephen’s Green around the corner, it seems they deliberately chose the right option. In the 1940s, Dublin Corportation chose to respect Georgian heritage, and not to ‘cleanse’ the area, and yet in 2005 that is exactly what the City Council are doing!

This is a streetscape that can be read, a terrace that tells a story through its materials and design. To sweep it all away for the sake of efficiency is to wipe away the past, the very history of this area.
There’s little doubt that the flats at the top end are not going to last much longer either. So instead of having contemporary apartments at the top end and the prototype, the originals that gave the area its famous name in the city, at the bottom, there will be modern development lining the whole street, and not a trace of its past left. That is a crying shame.
Well would you want to live in them you could ask – I’d gladly live in this refurbished terrace.

By all accounts gut the interiors, smash them in fact, but the facades could and should have been retained.
The easy option was taken.

Goodbye York Street :(
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Re: York Street

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Oct 07, 2005 12:41 am

A fine and fitting obituary, Graham. I second all you said. Thanks for getting the pics before it was too late.
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Re: York Street

Postby Frank Taylor » Fri Oct 07, 2005 9:26 am

Thanks for taking the trouble to post those photos, Graham.
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Re: York Street

Postby sjpclarke » Fri Oct 07, 2005 2:42 pm

Graham - Very well argued. This street has fasinated me since I was a kid. My Dad used to park down there beofre taking me down Grafton Street. Even then I felt the street has a 'real' urban Dublin quality about it: a sense of place, history, relatedness to the surrounding area .... What are we to get in its place? Yet another faceless modern building / apartment block with a very poor relation to the street pavement environment. Certainly something needs doing and that something is certainly not Bacholers Walk pastiche. How about a modern interpretation of the town house: http://www.ivarhagendoorn.com/photos/architecture/borneo_sporenburg.html - some imagination please! Shane
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Fri Oct 07, 2005 6:53 pm

Yes, in light of the wiping away of what very simply is York St, the very least the City Council can do is come up with an imaginative, lasting scheme. I wonder do they propose an in-house job (indeed do the CC even design their developments any more?), or are they tendering it out?


Forgot this pic from yesterday - it's very interesting in that it shows the difficulties the Coporation faced in retaining some Georgian elements of the original terrace:

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The new inner frame clearly had to be adapted to align with the Georgian fenestration. If this doesn't show how intent they were in keeping some of the original fabric of the street, nothing does. Surely it would have been so much easier to sweep it all away, as is happening today.

Some views of the rear - an even stranger mixture of bricks here!

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The only explantion I can think of for the orangey brick is that the architect decided to reflect the central Georgian part to the front by using an equally different modern brick to the rear, to contrast with the plum coloured parts either side?


The terrace apparently has the most wonderfully sunny south facing gardens:

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This little leafy corner of the city behind Ardilaun House always looks so well in summer - especially with all the warm brick about the place, including Mercer House.

And the doorcases again:

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Re: York Street

Postby shaun » Mon Oct 10, 2005 4:01 pm

Nice one Graham, I too have always admired this street since I was a kid, coming into town with my Dad, I used to always try and imagine what it was like behind those red-bricked walls, and with the salvation army down the street.

By the way, anybody remenber the Dandalion market just around the corner from here, pity that they ripped it down and put up that horrible pile of shite in its place.

York street will be missed, of that there is no doubt.
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Re: York Street

Postby KerryBog2 » Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:06 am

Nice photos, nice streetscape, pity about the people. I once was naive enough to think myself lucky to find a parking space so near the Green. Came back after lunch and my car had been cleaned out. Gardai said "Why do you think all those spaces were empty? They watch from the flats, nip out, smash, grab and run back in again. No way would we go in there!"
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Re: York Street

Postby Richards » Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:53 am

Great Photos. That whole area around St Stephens Green West has completely changed over the last 20 odd years or so. In the attempt to "Clean Up" the area I have not seen more boring corporate architecture in Dublin. Give us some well designed Social Urban living space and try to increase the local population.
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:14 am

Well given a third of the site is going to the RCSI, it's unlikely the population will increase to any great extent, even with a higher density development...

The Irish Architectural Archive has the most fascinating collection of photographs of 'Old' York Street from the 1960s.
A lot were taken by the Dublin Corporation Dangerous Buildings Dept, some by Maurice Craig, and the majority not credited but clearly taken for archival purposes. Unfortunately from what I could make out, all of the pictures were of the northern terrace, i.e. the RSCI side rather than the 1940s terrace side.
It seems all the pictures were taken in anticipation of the northern terrace being demolished c1964, as appreciation of Georgian stock was much greater by then than the 1940s when the southern block was swept away.

The condition of some of the northern houses is truly shocking, but especially the notion that people were still living in these conditions in the 1960s in the very heart of the capital city. One dismal photo from 1962 showed a half landing with a magnificent timber window surround with fluted columns either side, and in front the most squalid conditions with a pail of water on the floor, a Belfast sink in the corner, what seemed to be some sort of wardrobe-like water closet squeezed onto the landing too, and of course all manner of filth and decay all about, with crumbling walls and plaster and the original arched window removed and a square sash put in its place.
Another picture shows what seems to be an entrance hall, with the arch that divides the reception hall from the inner hall half-bricked up with concrete blocks.

Outside the pictures taken by the Corpo were naturally of the worst parts, of barely-holding-together railing plinths and wonky railings, and other more significant structural issues.

Above all though, you could make out what a fine street it once was, maybe as much as 100 years previously. The houses semed to be in the majority c1750-60 in character - the doorcases in particular would remind you of Parnell Sqaure and other Gardiner schemes of the mid-18th century, with a lot of doorcases like this but maybe smaller and bulkier in scale:

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Most interestingly though is that there were loads of doorcases as good as identical to those on the opposite side of the street today on these northern houses, the ones that seems to be of concrete:

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There were more elaborate versions of the corbelled doors, but definitely not the exact ones - so they seem to have originated on the southern terrace where they are now. What's particularly sad to see is gothic timber panes in a few of the fanlights, and even in at least one of the half landing windows to the rear :(

Reading some bits and pieces from about the place it seems York St was one of the worst, if not the worst tenement area in Dublin in the 1940s, so it's no wonder the Corpo wanted rid of the southern terrace at least. In one house there were no less than 24 families living in its rooms - and all sharing a single toilet. No doubt conditions improved somewhat by the 1960s, though judging by the half landing pic you'd think otherwise...
There were new-fangled television aerials up on the chimneys anyway, so they had telly at least :)

It seems strange that the southern terrace was built to rehouse everyone c1950, yet it was another 12-14 years of utter squalor for the northern terrace before it was pulled down - why the delay?

Does anyone know of the RCSI bought the terrace from the Corpo and then demolish, or did the Corpo clear it themselves with the intention of rebuilding but never realised their plans?

Either way it's become much clearer as to why the Corpor rebuilt the southern block in a Georgian style - simply because the northern Georgian terrace was to remain standing and in use as tenements for many years to come, hence the character of the street was maintained. Indeed in one pic of the northern terrace, you can just see the brand spanking new southern block in the background :)

Hope to go back and try to find some material relating to the all-important southern terrace - it's due to disappear in a matter of days at this stage :(
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Re: York Street

Postby Lillian Doyle » Wed Oct 26, 2005 6:18 pm

KerryBog2 wrote:Nice photos, nice streetscape, pity about the people. I once was naive enough to think myself lucky to find a parking space so near the Green. Came back after lunch and my car had been cleaned out. Gardai said "Why do you think all those spaces were empty? They watch from the flats, nip out, smash, grab and run back in again. No way would we go in there!"



As someone who grew up in York Street (I have been out of it longer than I was in it). I would like to let you know there were some very decent people in these flats. In fact it was only in latter years that the criminal group moved in that is when most of the old tennants moved to other accommodation. I would guess you had all your belongings on the back seat of your car and can only say that the same thing would happen in London, Manchester, Madrid, Cork etc or any other major city. You can not tar everyone with the same brush.
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Re: York Street

Postby hutton » Thu Oct 27, 2005 1:22 am

Anyone got any idea what date demolition is due to occur?
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Jan 26, 2006 3:23 am

25/1/2006

They’re moving in :(

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Hardly the Fitzwilliam Street of the 21st century, but a sad event nonetheless.
Apologies for the woeful quality of these images. Didn’t have much time, but mainly because for whatever strange reason, rather appropriately, it was the darkest the street has ever been, in spite of it being broad daylight. Quite extraordinarily dar, and almost completely washed of colour.

Many of the interiors have already been gutted:

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…revealing a fascinating tapestry of many people’s lives...

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…and some remarkably bad taste in wallpaper :eek:

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As suspected, lightwells do indeed penetrate the heart of the terrace – here you can see one complete with cast iron soil pipe:

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Aerial imagery reveals the same much better – a fascinating hangover from the Victorians in the heath and sanitation obsessed 1930s and 40s:

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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Thu Jan 26, 2006 3:25 am

What really makes you smile is the fantastic array of 1940s fireplaces on display; some modest bedroom models, and others more elaborate in reception rooms.

A nice little bedroom one here:

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And the same model with an inverse colour scheme:

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More elaborate decoration here:

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A wonderful glossy-tiled Art Deco inspired surround:

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And what seems to be a magnificent Bell fireplace, who were based in Glasnevin. They still seem to be there today on Botanic Road. What a fine piece – the design and tiles used match precisely the late 1940s date of these buildings.

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Unfortunately it seems none of these fire surrounds are being salvaged, not even the finer ones, as the floors have already been knocked :(

It seems the floors in the original Georgian sections as pictured below have timber joist floors and ceilings while the wholly 1940s-50s sections at either end appear to be of cast concrete panel construction. Not 100 percent sure as I didn’t have time to check properly:

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Back outside and the 1940s doorcases are being numbered :(

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As yet there is no numbering on the 18th century doorcases.


Just looking at an aerial view of the area, it is interesting note how this whole part of the city was earmarked for social housing, built up over the course of thirty years in a range of architectural styles, no doubt replacing many a tenement not least on York Street itself.

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How depressing that Mercer House and York Street, built during the depths of economic stagnation and some of the worst times this country has experienced, still stand as the highest architectural achievement in the midst of everything else that has been built in this area in the intervening sixty years.

And York Street is the first to be demolished.
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Re: York Street

Postby phil » Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:30 pm

Graham Hickey wrote:
And York Street is the first to be demolished.


Half of these were gone today as I walked past.
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Re: York Street

Postby GrahamH » Tue Feb 21, 2006 5:24 am

Yes I passed them too - a big hole gouged out of the middle of the terrace :eek:
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