The late 20th century had not been kind to Number 27. The basement storey had been filled in and the ground floor level realigned on the flat to accommodate Thompsons, one of Ireland’s first car showrooms, accessed directly over the footpath. The building later operated as a butcher’s shop and finally as a carpet shop in the 1990s. By this stage, most of the interior had been gutted, with a steel staircase inserted, doors and windows removed and the upper floors supported on steel girders. To the outside, the Pearse family shop frontage had long been replaced with roller shutters and a giant fascia, while the exterior basement area had been filled in with its railings removed. The upper brick façade was coated in multiple layers of paint.
In spite of these changes, the masonry carcass of the building remained intact, with the proportions of the upper rooms still legible and some fragments of joinery surviving. The roof was in reasonable condition and some decorative cast-iron had also survived.
The first stage was to reinstate the volumes of the original lower rooms of the house while structurally consolidating the building. This involved removing the cast concrete floor that had served Thompsons’ showroom, a delicate process that effectively involved a dramatic ‘hoisting’ of most of the house while new basement walls and floors were inserted underneath the building. Further structural work included angle-strapping the exterior walls and strengthening the joisted floors.
Extensive inspection was made of adjacent matching houses to gain a better understanding of the original form and layout of Number 27 and to inform a strategy for its full reinstatement. Number 26 next door was a remarkably intact house, operating for many years as the premises of B.B. Hopkins outfitters, and proved the ideal match for reinstating the interiors of Number 27. Profiles of window shutter boxes, door panelling, skirtings and architraves were taken and faithfully reproduced, along with plaster mouldings and sash window details. Black marble chimneypieces were sourced by the Trust and appropriate salvaged floorboards installed throughout.
A major component of the scheme was removing the functional metal stairs that rose through the house, which was replaced with an 1820s staircase salvaged from a demolished house on Charlemont Street. It proved the ideal replacement, precisely matching the style of the 1820s and reinstating the original proportions of the halls and landings.
To the front façade, decades of paint were peeled from the front façade and extensive brick replacement and repair was undertaken using historic matching brick salvaged from a building then recently demolished on Pearse Street. The cast-iron balconies at first floor level were carefully restored and new sash windows were made to precise 1820s dimensions to replace the modern steel casements.
Number 27 demonstrates how buildings that have been altered in the past still retain an authenticity that can be revealed through a thorough understanding the structure and undertaking careful repairs and reinstatement. It also shows the value of Dublin’s modest street buildings that form an important part of the city’s identity.