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It requires the greatest call on Christian charity to have to fight for a building with those officials of Departments of State who are merely administrators of a branch of fluctuating government power and who yet impose their personal whims on permanent buildings.(Michael Scott, 1955, p. 63)
Busáras is situated behind James Gandon's masterpiece, the Custom House (1781-1791) and beside Beresford Place (1795-1800). The Custom House is considered architecturally the most important building in Dublin and is sited on the river front with Beresford Place to the rear. Beresford Place is a short curving terrace of five houses built on an axis with the central dome of the Custom House. The terrace was designed by Gandon in 1790 but was much simplified from his designs in execution.
The Custom House was the first major public building built in Dublin as an isolated structure with four monumental façades. The eighteenth century was a period of great confidence in Dublin, with the former countryside to the north east of the medieval city being developed by the Fitzwilliam and Gardiner Estates in a series of wide streets and squares, and the work of the Wide Streets Commissioners in laying out the great civic set pieces like Parliament Street through the heart of the old city. The site chosen for the new Custom House met with much opposition from city merchants who feared that its move down the river would lessen the value of their properties while making the property owners to the east wealthier. The previous Custom House (Thomas Burgh, 1707) had being sited upriver at Essex Quay. The decision to built further down river was forced by the Rt. Hon. John Beresford (1738-1805) who was appointed Chief Commissioner from 1780 onwards and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland.
Beresford favoured shifting the city centre eastwards from the Capel - Parliament Street axis towards a new axis on College Green with Sackville Street and the construction of a new bridge linking the two sides. Naturally this was supported by the Fitzwilliam and Gardiner Estates who had much to gain. Luke Gardiner was also a Commissioner and a brother-in-law of Beresford. The Custom House was built on land reclaimed from the estuary of the Liffey when the Wide Streets Commissioners started to construct the Quays. The line of the crescent that surrounds the Custom House follows roughly the line of the old North Strand along the estuary before the construction of the Quays.
On the northside of the river Liffey, it was the Gardiner Estate that held much of the property and was responsible for developing Drogheda Street into the wide boulevard that became Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street). The Gardiners then proceeded to develop streets to the north of this with Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) and Cavendish Row. As construction of the Custom House went ahead, Luke Gardiner drew up plans for an axial street leading from the new Custom House Crescent to a new symmetrical square they proposed to build on high ground to the north. This street became Gardiner Street (1787 onwards) and the square was named Mountjoy Square (1792-1818). This is shown on one of the proposed designs for Mountjoy Square with a note: "Gardiner's Street extending in a right line from the centre of the new Custom House". This is a distance of some three quarters of a mile, and until the completion of the Loop Line Railway bridge, the Custom House presented a magnificent ending for the vista.
Prior to this period, Lower Abbey Street was a country lane which meandered between Sackville Street and the North Strand. The old Eden Quay area followed the irregular shoreline of the river estuary. It was felt by the Wide Streets Commissioners that this should be rectified and so Abbey Street Lower and Eden Quay were driven straight through from Sackville Street to end in the new crescent allowing the Custom House to close the vista. There was also discussion about constructing a new avenue to radiate from the Custom House to the Royal Barracks (now called Collins Barracks) nearly two miles away. The other street intersecting with the crescent, Store Street West, was placed on an axis originating in the dome of the Custom House. At the time of the Custom House construction, this area was largely unbuilt land and Store Street was laid out as a short street of the same width as Gardiner Street merely for symmetry in much the same way that the Gardiners laid out Belvedere Place from Mountjoy Square as a dead-end.