The Custom House in Dublin
The Custom House is a neoclassical 18th century building in Dublin, Ireland which houses the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is located on the north bank of the River Liffey, on Custom House Quay between Butt Bridge and Talbot Memorial Bridge.
It was designed by James Gandon to act as the new custom house for Dublin Port and was his first large scale commission. For his assistants Gandon chose Irish artists such as Meath stone-cutter Henry Darley, mason John Semple and carpenter Hugh Henry. Every available mason in Dublin was engaged in the work. When it was completed and opened for business on 7 November 1791, it cost £200,000 to build – a huge sum at the time. The four facades of the building are decorated with coats-of-arms and ornamental sculptures (by Edward Smyth) representing Ireland's rivers. Another artist, Henry Banks, was responsible for the statue on the dome and other statues.<ref name=craig/>
As the port of Dublin moved further downriver, the building's original use for collecting custom duties became obsolete, and it was used as the headquarters of local government in Ireland. During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the Irish Republican Army burnt down the Custom House, in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland. Gandon's original interior was completely destroyed in the fire and the central dome collapsed. A large quantity of irreplaceable historical records were also destroyed in the fire. Despite achieving its objectives, the attack on the Custom House was a setback for the IRA as a large number of Volunteers were captured either during the attack or when falling back.
After the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it was restored by the Irish Free State government. The results of this reconstruction can still be seen on the building's exterior today – the dome was rebuilt using Irish Ardbraccan limestone which is noticeably darker than the Portland stone used in the original construction. This was done as an attempt to promote Irish resources.
Further restoration and cleaning of the stonework was done by an Office of Public Works team in the 1980s.