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Custom House

Completed in 1791, this structure, with its beautiful classical façade, is one of Dublin's most prominent waterfront buildings. Designed by prominent Irish architect James Gandon, who also designed the impressive Four Courts further along the River Liffey, the Custom House is a product of the highest point in the history of Ireland's port development. 


Commissioned in 1780 by John Beresford, the first Commisioner of Revenue in Ireland, the Custom House was for a long time viewed by the Irish as a symbol of British imperialism. In fact, only ten years after construction was complete, the Act of Union rendered the building's very purpose irrelevant, as Ireland was no longer entitled to collect any income from duties. The structure was nearly destroyed by Sinn Fein supporters who set fire to it in 1921 in celebration of an election victory. It burned for five days. In 1926, reconstruction of the building was undertaken, and final renovations were not completed until 1991. 


The main façade encompasses a Doric portico, with pavilions at each end topped by the arms of Ireland. Dublin's Edward Smyth sculpted the fourteen heads that keystone the entrances and arches of the façade. They depict all the main rivers of Ireland as well as the Atlantic Ocean. At the top of the huge dome stands a version of the statue of Commerce. Today, Custom House is the headquarters for various government offices and welcomes visitors via a Visitor's Centre featuring information on the work of James Gandon and how his original plans were painstakingly followed during the restoration after the fire. Visitor tip: The best view of the building is from the south side of the River Liffey, just past Matt Talbot Bridge, where the gleaming green copper cupola is visible.


Image by Giuseppe Milo


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