Wednesday, November 24 2021

Learn about Dublin’s history at the Custom House Visitor Center and learn about the role the building played in the Irish War of Independence.

The Custom House, an iconic neo-classical building on the north quay of the River Liffey in Dublin, was once Ireland’s main trade route to the rest of the world.

Dublin Customs. Credit: iStock

This architectural icon has witnessed not only the development of a great city, but also some of the most turbulent milestones in its history, and from November 2021 you can take a trip to the Custom House Visitor Center and immerse yourself in the iconic history of Ireland.

The new visitor center will open in November 2021 and marks the centenary of the 1921 customs fire during the War of Independence, which left nine dead and nearly destroyed the iconic neoclassical building.

The stories of Dublin’s Custom House construction, fire and restoration now come to life in a fascinating new exhibit, revealing a rich, multi-layered history spanning over 200 years.

The Custom House Visitor Center in Dublin will open in November 2021. Credit: OPW

The Custom House Visitor Center in Dublin will open in November 2021. Credit: OPW

Speaking about the refurbishment of the Custom House Visitor Center, Housing, Local Government and Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien, TD said:

“This will give the public [an] the opportunity to delve into a formative part of our history, including a detailed account of the 1921 customs fire, one of the most defining moments of the War of Independence.

“The opening, in the centenary year of the Customs fire, will be really important for North Dublin city center and we hope to provide a very informative and interesting tourist attraction.”

History of Dublin Customs:

In 1791, the architect James Gandon completed the construction of the Custom House, a masterpiece of European neoclassicism. the construction took ten years and cost £ 200,000, a considerable sum at the time.

Look around and admire the decorative details of Edward Smyth’s beautifully executed stone carvings outside and the famous carved keystones depicting the terrible heads of the river gods. There are 14 – one for every major river in Ireland.

Learn about Dublin's history at the Custom House Visitor Center.  Credit: OPW

Learn about Dublin’s history at the Custom House Visitor Center. Credit: OPW

As the Port of Dublin moved further downstream, the building’s original use for collecting customs duties became obsolete and it was used as the seat of the Local Government Council for Ireland.

In 1921, the IRA, in what was its largest operation during the Irish War of Independence, seized and torched the Custom House building.

Nine people – five IRA members and four civilians – were killed in the shootings that took place in and around the building. The Custom House, one of the most important British government administrative buildings in Ireland at the time, was completely destroyed, along with its administrative records.

In the aftermath of the Custom House fire, the Public Works Office re-roofed and restored the building and skillfully restored its iconic dome from 1926 to 1929. The results of the reconstruction can still be seen today at the exterior of the building due to the reconstruction of the dome using Irish Ardbraccan limestone, which is noticeably
darker than the stone used in the original construction.

Through this, along with the continued conservation of the exterior and interior of the building, he ensured that the customs were preserved for generations to come.

The new reception center will mark the centenary of the 1921 customs fire. Credit: OPW

The new reception center will mark the centenary of the 1921 customs fire. Credit: OPW

To find out more about the Custom House Visitor Center and its hours of operation, click here or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also keep up to date with the Public Works Office on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.



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