26 December 2016

Terracotta scrolls and flourishes
on a busy Dublin street corner

D’Olier Chambers is a landmark building on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

In my architectural notes over the past few weeks, I have referred to the work and legacy of the Kerry-born Victorian architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924), including his designs of the Superintendent’s Lodge in Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and his alterations to Saint Mary’s Church, Julianstown, Co Meath.

But Fuller’s most interesting building in Dublin must be the wonderful terracotta-decorated D’Olier Chambers on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street.

D’Olier Chambers stands at the junction of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

At present, the street-level of the building is masked by barriers protecting the works on the extension of Luas line. It is a busy junction with buses blocking views of the building and confusing pedestrian walkways taking away the possibility of most passers-by enjoying this unique building at a busy junction.

But this is one of Dublin’s landmark buildings, and I first became acquainted with it when I was working on the other side of D’Olier Street in The Irish Times.

James Franklin Fuller cleverly uses his skills and designs to turn the corner where two streets merge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

D’Olier Chambers on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin, was designed in 1891 by JF Fuller, who cleverly used his skills and designs to turn the corner where these streets merge.

Fuller received the majority of his commissions from the Church of Ireland and from the Guinness family, but this building was designed for the Gallaher tobacco company.

This is one of Dublin’s first steel-frame constructions, and was built by Collen Brothers at a cost of £5,876. Its beauty lies not just in the way Fuller uses the narrow street corner to its best advantage, but in the way he decorates the building in yellow brick and terracotta, integrating scrolled gables and tall chimneys into his decorative features.

Fuller decorates D’Olier Chambers with terracotta scrolls and flourishes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street are two broad city centre streets whose northern ends meet at the southern end of O’Connell Bridge crossing the River Liffey. The southern end of D’Olier Street meets Fleet Street, Townsend Street, College Street and Pearse Street.

D’Olier Street is named after Jeremiah D’Olier (1745-1817), a Huguenot goldsmith and a founder of the Bank of Ireland. D’Olier was the City Sheriff in 1788 and a member of the Wide Streets Commission. The street was one of the last major interventions in the Dublin city plan to be executed by the Wide Streets Commissioners.

Gallaher’s Tobacco Company was originally founded in 1857 by Tom Gallaher in Derry. Gallaher’s also had factories in London and Dublin, and produced cigarettes in Belfast and cigars in Wales.

The business was incorporated in 1896 to ‘carry on in all their branches the businesses of tobacco, cigar, cigarettes and snuff manufacture.’ By 1896, the company was operating the largest tobacco factory in the world in Belfast.

The building has gone through many uses over the past century, and today the Gallaher Bistro on the ground floor celebrates the name of the original proprietors who commissioned Fuller to design this beautiful work of architecture.

A lion’s head on the façade of D’Olier Chambers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

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