Stones of Dublin – A History of Dublin in Ten Buildings by Lisa Marie Griffith is published by The Collins Press. We had a chat with Lisa!
In ten of Dublin’s most historic buildings, we encounter the great periods of building activity, the people involved in their construction and the institutions that inhabited them. Behind the façades is the story of Dublin.
The buildings are Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Trinity College Dublin, the Old Parliament House (Bank of Ireland), City Hall, Kilmainham Gaol, St James’ Gate Brewery, the GPO, the Abbey and Croke Park.
Bringing together the story of these landmark buildings takes us on a wonderful journey through the shifting social, political and cultural history of Ireland’s capital.
How did you get the idea for the book? And how did you choose the buildings?
I worked as a tour guide in the city centre of Dublin for five years.
Buildings were a really great way to show visitors to Dublin what our history is and the importance that it has in Irish life.
I planned my route around the most historic buildings and constructed my historical narrative around these buildings.
It made sense to me to tell the story of Dublin through architecture and buildings so the book came from there.
It was hard to choose the buildings though and narrow them down to ten. The buildings that I picked are all landmarks but they are well-known buildings and most can be visited in an afternoon stroll around the city.
How did you get info about the buildings? What documentary sources? And maybe people too?
I did my PhD in Eighteenth Century History in Trinity College Library so I was familiar with a lot of the primary and secondary sources for the city. Dublin City Library and Archives is a fantastic repository for information on the city but I also visited the National Library, and the Royal Irish Academy.
How an exhibition about your book and its ten buildings should be designed and developed?
If the book was put together about the exhibition I think it would have to focus on people- the people who commissioned and designed the buildings, who lived and worked in them and who preserved the buildings.
Each of the buildings in the book is important because it meant something to the people of Dublin or because of an event organised by people.
A good example of this is the GPO, which is celebrated because of the Easter Rising in 1916.
What is your favourite building, and why?
I think my favourite is City Hall. It’s a beautiful building to visit and has a great story attached to it. It also has statues of some of Ireland’s most important figures like Daniel O’Connell. Even though it’s in the centre of the city many people don’t visit it which is a pity. It’s worth going in and looking around as it’s an architectural gem.
Stones of Dublin is a Top 10: would you mention 10 more buildings for our Italian readers?
- St Patrick’s Cathedral is just a little younger than Christ Church Cathedral (in the book). It has a very rich history and is linked with the French Huguenot immigrants and Jonathan Swift the writer who was Dean of the Cathedral.
- Marshes Library is the oldest public library in Dublin (opened in 1701) and was used by many Irish scholars and writers like James Joyce.
- St Mary’s Abbey, a medieval abbey, is underneath street level and just off Abbey Street. Only one room remains and it is believed that it was used for secret masses during the reformation.
- The Mansion House, home of the city’s lord mayor, is on Dawson Street is very beautiful and housed the first Irish Dail (parliament) in 1919.
Our current parliament building, Leinster House, is on Kildare Street/Merrion Square and was once the town house of the Dukes of Leinster.
- Collins Barracks, which is now home to the National Museum’s Decorative Arts Wing, was an important military garrison just outside the city limits. The museum is wonderful and there’s an excellent exhibition called ‘Soldiers and Chiefs’ that looks at war in Ireland.
- The National Library on Kildare Street is a beautiful nineteenth century building with a wonderful reading room. The library has fantastic genealogical records and lots of visitors research their Irish ancestors in the library there.
- National Museum, Kildare Street, houses the archaeology wing. It’s very close to the National Museum and houses Celtic and Viking treasures.
- The houses on Henrietta Street are worth visiting (although they are several buildings, not just one). When they were built in the eighteenth century these buildings were the homes of Dublin’s elite but in the nineteenth century they became tenements for Dublin’s poor. There is a big contrast in who built these houses and who ended up living in them.
- The Custom House on the quays was built by James Gandon and is very beautiful. You can’t visit it from inside but it’s a very striking building from the outside.
- Central Bank, although not very attractive to view, is an important building in contemporary Ireland. It is located in the heart of the city centre in Temple Bare and I think it represents the boom and bust of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger.
Imagine the same book but in 2114: what buildings would you want to be still in the top10, and what would you want as an icon for the Dublin of the XXII Century?
By 2114 the list would have to be expanded to 12 or 15 buildings as I would like to think the ten buildings in the book will still be standing and important part of Ireland’s built heritage.
The Convention Centre is very beautiful and the events that it hosts are really important so it’s possible that it could be included.
I also think it tells an interesting story about Ireland’s economic downturn and the recovery which Ireland is making.
Perhaps headquarters for international technology companies like Google would also be included as they are important industries for us now.