Heart of the City: Parnell Square and Parnell Street

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Parnell Square 1996View the Parnell Square Image Gallery.

Parnell Square is the oldest of the Georgian Squares of Dublin, and the only one on the north side of the city to escape the tenementisation of the later 19th and early 20th century. Built as the homes of the great and the good of the late eighteenth century, including the Gardiner and Charlemont families, during the 19th century its buildings became more commercial in nature, with large numbers of solicitors, doctors and auctioneers locating their offices there. Rutland Square, as it was then known, also became the home of a number of cultural and political associations, including the Gaelic League.

Throughout the 20th century, the Square housed the headquarters of many unions and associations serving the professions, crafts and trades. It also added to its facilities new centres of entertainment and culture, notably the Gate Theatre, the Hugh Lane Gallery and later, the Dublin Writers' Museum. The educational aspect of the Square, which developed in the 19th century with a number of private schools, reached its height in the 20th, with the foundation of Coláiste Mhuire and the establishment of the Peoples' College. But the Square also had its less serious side, with ballrooms such as the National and the Ierne giving a buzz to its evenings.

Now the Square is set for new lease of life with the establishment of a Cultural Quarter and the conversion of the Colaiste Mhuire complex to a new City Library. parnellsquare.ie

Further Resources

Dublin City Public Libraries has a wide range of sources on the literary history of Dublin, some of which are available online and some through the Dublin City Public Libraries network.
The Reading Room, Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street holds a wealth of material on the history of Dublin, including books, pamphlets, journals, street directories, and almanacs.

The following online resources can be accessed free of charge at your local library (access links via our NetVibes portal). Ask library staff for information and assistance.

  • Libraries and Archives Digital Repository: Digital records relating to Dublin, including photographs, postcards, letters, maps and ephemeral material. Highlights of the collection include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection, Wide Street Commission Map Collection (1757-1851), the Irish Theatre Archive and the Birth of the Republic Collection, which comprises material from the period of the foundation of the Irish state.
  • Irish Times Digital Archive: This online archive service gives access to contemporary editions of the Irish Times from the mid-nineteenth century until the present.
  • Irish Newspaper Archive: This online archive service gives access to contemporary editions of the Irish Independent and a range of other newspapers.
  • The Ireland-JSTOR Collection: This online archive of academic articles can also be accessed free of charge at your local library.

For further reading, consult the Library Catalogue.


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