Street of the Week: O’Connell St
This week’s Street of the Week is…. O’Connell St!
DublinTown is filled with streets steeped in history and businesses that make it a place to visit. Whether you want to shop, dine or socialise, DublinTown has it all! But when was the last time you visited a street out of the norm? Each week, DublinTown is going to focus on one of the streets in the city, giving you a little history and showing you some of the great businesses in the area that make it worth visiting. And for this week we bring you O’Connell St.
Watch below to see our whistle stop tour of the many businesses that make this street what it is today.
A little history…
2018 sees the celebration of 200 years of the GPO on O’Connell Street making it the world’s longest serving postal headquarters. It’s hard to think of a building more connected with the city’s recent history or more iconic of Dublin. It was the focal point of the 1916 Rising, the early home of broadcasting in Ireland and is still central to the millions of letters and parcels that travel across the country and further afield every year.
But it could have all been so different. Instead of going to O’Connell Street to post a letter you could have been going there for confession. If Archbishop of Dublin John Thomas Troy had had his way the site of the GPO could have been a Catholic Cathedral for the city! He eventually settled on a site on nearby Marlborough Street which is today home to St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral which opened its doors a few years after the GPO in 1825.
When the GPO opened its doors in 1818 O’Connell Street was known as Sackville Street. Prior to that the upper, more northern section of the street had been known as Drogheda Street after Henry Moore, the Earl of Drogheda. The street had begun as a fashionable residential street but by the 19th century had already become a centre for retail, socialising and trade. Sackville Street wouldn’t become O’Connell Street until 1924 some eight years after the Proclamation had been read by Padraig Pearse from the steps of the GPO. The street would be badly damaged during the Rising, and again during the Civil War which especially impacted the block north of Cathedral Street. However famous businesses like the Gresham Hotel still returned and rebuilt.
The street has changed again in more recent times. In 2003 the Spire of Dublin was completed and sits on the spot once occupied by Nelson’s Pillar. Soon after Dublin City Council began a series of improvement works, installing new paving, trees and lighting to make the street more attractive to Dubliners and visitors alike. Finally in late 2017 the Luas Cross City works were completed, which meant for the first time since the 1940’s ther were trams departing once more from Ireland’s main street. Who knows what the future will bring.