Grafton Street’s A Wonderland - Open House Dublin 2022
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Grafton Street’s A Wonderland

There are not many people in Ireland who have not walked down Grafton St at some stage. This could be for a little retail therapy or heading to or from St Stephens’ Green. This street for many generations has been lined with shops, whose purpose and style altered as people’s requirements have changed over time.

The streetscape itself at ground level is, with a few notable exceptions, largely unremarkable. It reflects many of the brands which would feature across main shopping streets throughout Ireland & the UK. However, if you look up, there is a different perspective to be enjoyed.

Grafton St did not suffer the damage that befell many of the fine buildings north of the Liffey in 1916. Much of its Victorian stock and a small number of Georgian buildings have survived, as well as some interesting 20thC additions. When you look at the buildings above the ground floor, you can get a sense of the quality of architecture that still exists on this busy thoroughfare. Because it is a familiar street, we may not notice what is has to offer.

Bewleys is a much loved landmark on the street, but there are other less obvious examples. River Island & McDonalds are 2 high profile retailers at the bottom of Grafton St. The 4 floors above the shop front are both interesting. Stand outside Weirs and you can appreciate the McDonalds building as its original incarnation as Mitchells Hotel. The River Island building has an oriel window style that is reflected across multiple buildings on the street

The vista from the junction with South Anne’s St towards the Westbury shows surviving terraces of red-brick commercial buildings designed to work together.

Among interesting examples are the upper levels above the adjoining buildings which house Claire’s Accessories and Carl Scarpa.  The windows above Ted Baker were designed to house a billiard hall at the 1st floor. These are just a few instances that caught my eye. There are many other excellent examples on this street,

As you approach St Stephens Green, the road turns slightly reflecting the influence of the long buried Steyne River on the original pathway. Another reminder of how things long since forgotten affect our built environment today.

Because many of the buildings on Grafton St have survived for so long, they have been repurposed on multiple occasions by successive generations.  A previous iteration of Mitchells Hotel housed a hatter, stay maker, confectioner and a portmanteau manufacturer. This is what a living street does.

So the next time that you saunter along Grafton St, please take the time to look up and pick out the buildings that you find interesting.

Contributed by Rory Mahon



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