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42 O' Connell Street Dublin 1, Richard Cassel's threatened masterpiece

No.42. O'Connell Street:

No 42. O'Connell Street, is a terraced three-bay four-storey Georgian town house. The house was built around 1752, a very significant year in architecture, with buildings such as the Mansion House in London and the Valetta Waterfront in Malta, completed. Other noteable buildings completed during that year are the Mariinskyi Palace, and the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, among others.

Historic Importance:

No.42 is an east-facing red brick terraced Georgian house. It was built by Robert Robinson MD, the state physician and Professor of Anatomy at Trinity College, Dublin. The townhouse is found on Rocque's map of 1756 and is the only intact eighteenth-century house to survive on O'Connell Street. It has national importance due to its design by architect Richard Cassel (with construction supervised by John Ensor) and the stucco plasterwork carried out by Robert West.

Richard Cassels:

Richard Cassel's, (1690 – 1751) was an architect who ranks with Edward Lovett Pearce (who acted as Cassel's mentor) as one of the greatest architects working in Ireland in the 18th century.

Cassel worked on the pre-1800 Houses of Parliament with Pearce, whose design for the pre-Act of Union building is revolutionary, as it was the first purpose-built twin assembly (Houses of Commons and Lords) parliament in the world. Cassel's first sole commission, the Printing House of Trinity College, was designed to resemble a temple complete with a doric portico. This portico is a particularly interesting feature symbolising Cassels' early work – a portico is an almost essential feature of Palladian architecture.

With Cassel's Trinity College printing house, the portico becomes blind, and considerably understated. This is important as it is a feature of his final Dublin masterpiece. Leinster House, (now the national parliament), constructed between 1745 and 1751. Also, in 1741 Cassel designed the important Bishop's Palace in Waterford. A comparison of the Printing House and Leinster House shows the Cassel's evolution from the formal Palladian to the recognisable domestic Georgian style in Ireland., but most especially in Dublin.

Richard Cassels's principle buildings in Ireland:

Russborough House (Co. Kildare),

the Printing House Trinity College (Dublin City),

Leinster House (Dublin City), Carton House (Co. Kildare),

Westport House (Co.Mayo),

Rotunda Hospital (close to O'Connell Street in Dublin City),

Powerscourt Estate (Co.Wicklow),

Tyrone House, (Dublin City Centre, close to O'Connell Street),

Ardbraccan House (Co. Meath),

Bellinter House (Co. Meath).

Richard Cassels gave Ireland a unique type of Palladian architecture, with a restrained, even severe, style of external façade, forming a stark contrast to the often lavish interiors within.

Sackville Street and Gardiner's Mall in the 1750's

No.42 in O'Connell Street:

The old Sackville Mall was begun by Luke Gardiner from 1749 and demolished the northern part of Drogheda Street, widening it to create Gardiner’s Mall then Lower Sackville Street by the Wide Streets Commissioners in the late eighteenth century, and was renamed O’Connell Street in 1924 after independence in memory of Daniel O’Connell. No.42 therefore dates from the very earliest days of Georgian Dublin.

No.42 O'Connell Street:

No.42 is the only intact 18th house to survive on O'Connell Street and is found on Rocque's map of 1756. The building is far older than its surrounding buildings, due to the destruction during the 1916 Rising and Civil War.

Red-Brick Walls: No.42's red brick walls are laid in Flemish bond over the granite plinth course and the limestone basement. The Parapet wall was replaced with newer brick over the top floor window level at some point. The windows openings are gauged (dutch - style) brick square-headed, with timber sliding sash windows.

Entrance Door: The limestone Doric door surround consisting of pediment and with a damaged frieze, supported by three-quarter engaged columns over a tall plinth and lintel with a carved decoration of lion’s head. Single-pane timber sliding sash sidelights to either side of door. The cast-iron railings on a granite plinth with decorative corner posts and panel on either side of the entrance door.

Basement: The enclosed basement of the basement under the main entrance door has limestone flags with large red letters 'Apollo' on the east elevation facing O'Connell Street and combines sections of rubble stone, eighteenth-century brick and modern concrete reinforcement blocks.

The north elevation of No.42 shows the original junction with no. 41 which was torn down in 1968, having steel braces supporting the north wall, emphasising the precarious and threatened nature of this last fragment of O'Connell Street's original mall., now subject to the same processes of so-called ‘development’ which have blighted O'Connell Street in the past.

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