Re: Re: Harcourt Terrace to be ballsed up ?
Nice tribute here to Rico & Eden Ross, detailing their battle to save the terrace from destruction for many years.
A couple that championed Dublin’s historic Harcourt Terrace
SB Post, 2000
The survival of Harcourt Terrace as Dublin’s only formal and symmetrically planned block of houses from the Regency period is largely due to the efforts of Rico and Eden Ross who have lived there since 1973.
Rico Ross, born in Boston in 1929, died recently having spent most of his life in Dublin fighting to save various parts of the city as places where people could live and work. Sadly he witnessed some of the worst decades of devastation, where whole streets such as Claremont Street were closed and left idle for years.
However, he was pleased that the last decade brought people back into the city to live and that many of the derelict sites are now built upon.
As early as 1970, developers were eyeing up the back gardens of Harcourt Terrace, especially at the end nearest to the Grand Canal, with a view to building office blocks there.
After many years numbers 10 and 11 were finally gutted and redeveloped by the Gallagher Group as apartments. Even though the terrace had been included on List A since the late 1960s, Dublin Corporation eventually granted planning permission for office development in the 1980s.
The various proposals mooted for numbers 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 would have resulted in the stripping of the interiors and building up of the gardens, were it not for the fact that the Rosses and their neighbour Michael MacLiammor, among others, vigorously opposed these plans.
Today Harcourt Terrace is an elegant, largely residential area and the street has become a quiet backwater since being closed to through traffic. The houses were erected some time after 1824 by John Jasper Joly, and ten houses were laid out in pairs with single storey partitions in between.
All have beautifully proportioned rooms with wide Georgian sash windows, except for 10 and 11, where inappropriate swing-hinge windows were installed. The timber framed doorcases have unusual strapwork decoration and pretty teardrop style fanlights above.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that until recently none of the interiors was protected, the grand central block of the terrace, numbers 6 and 7, were demolished except for the facade.
A protracted battle ran throughout the 1980s in an attempt to prevent the then owners of the building, the Legion of Mary, from allowing it to be vandalised or be demolished.
This imposing structure, now rebuilt in offices, boasts a large portico of giant ionic columns, graced with a highly decorative frieze and cornice. Even the facades of the smaller houses are ornamented at ground floor level.
All of the decorative detail of the facades is executed in stucco or Roman cement. Despite having been described as having “gimcrack decoration”, Harcourt Terrace has lasted very well as an entity and most of the stucco ornament survives in good condition.
Originally built at right angles to the Grand Canal, and adjoining the now vanished terrace of Charlemont Place, it is located in a quiet part of the city centre only minutes walk from St Stephens Green.
A small stream called the river Steyne flows underground behind the terrace and once divided it from the property of a Mr Peter after whom Peter Place, which stands to the west, was called.
Early maps show that a row of trees, possibly lime trees, were planted down the middle of the street not long after the terrace was built. The gardens were originally laid out with flowers and shrubs, while trees gave an air of peace and elegance. Now that the street is closed to passing traffic, the reinstatement of this mall might further enhance the area.
Rico Ross was known for his interest in, and love of, trees and planted many in and about the terrace. He was enraged when one spring morning in 1975 a gang of workmen razed the beautiful trees, including a blossoming pear tree in the garden of Sarah Purser’s house and studio at number 11.
In 1974 Rico and Eileen Ross became involved with An Taisce through the influence of Deirdre Kelly and remained active for over 15 years in the many campaigns to save the heritage of the city and maintain it for the communities and people who lived there.
Examples of a disappearing breed of dedicated idealists, they never owned a car but chose instead to walk or cycle everywhere. They could never see the point of sacrificing the streets and houses of the city for the sake of motor traffic, commuting long distances from suburbia to office blocks which were seen as the future of the city from 1965 onwards.
Urban blight lay, at one time, on all sides of the couple, with the huge wasteland of Charlemont Street (now occupied by the Stakis Hotel and various apartment blocks), and went hand in hand with the endless round of planning battles in Harcourt Terrace itself.
Many of the houses were neglected and became prey to the activity of vandals with roofs being smashed, doors, shutters and antennas ripped out.
In the 1980s Dublin Corporation and An Bord Pleanala appeared, judging from all these encounters, as public bodies which showed little commitment to protecting the heritage.
Rico Ross, with his considerable knowledge of the legal system, left no stone unturned and personally took two cases to the High Court. One of them taken against An Bord Pleanala was successful, but a second case, which was never even heard, resulted in his being declared bankrupt in 1980.
But Rico’s interests were not confined to his own neighbourhood and through An Taisce he became involved in many planning issues around Dublin and in the campaign against the building of dual carriageways and road widening schemes in the city.
Rico and Eileen were frequent visitors to the council chamber of Dublin Corporation where they monitored closely the deeds of the elected representatives. They were also very adept at getting the media along at just the right moment, and Harcourt Terrace is a place known far and wide because of their efforts.
One project remains unfinished. An unusually large well was discovered at the rear of 8 Harcourt Terrace in 1977 by Eileen Ross, and various documents revealed that Lord Edward Fitzgerald hid here when he was on the run in 1798.
The well now awaits restoration and needs a proper iron grille and stone wall to make it secure. The restoration of this well, so long hidden from view, would be a fitting tribute to Rico and Eden Ross, the champions of Harcourt Terrace.