The talk of the town is of Dublin’s newest museum: 14 Henrietta Street. Opening its doors once again in September 2018, this museum traces the building’s 300-year history from its affluent Georgian beginnings to its desolation in 19th- and 20th-century tenement Dublin.
Tracing the path of time, this interactive tour offers a chronological venture from the grand lap of luxury to its subsequent squalor.
While Dublin becomes increasing cosmopolitan and multicultural, its heritage buildings – which have seen such triumphs and such horrors – are often overlooked.
14 Henrietta Street is the newest instalment to Dublin’s rapidly evolving museum sector. The experience offers an authentic opportunity to locals and tourists. It is a doorway to Dublin’s past.
The museum shares a unique look into the history of Georgian Ireland and tenement life, an element that has shaped Dublin city’s history.
14 Henrietta Street, like its neighbouring buildings, is majestic and grand. The street in question is short in length with houses on both sides. At the end sits the stately entrance of the Honourable Society of King’s Inns, Ireland’s oldest legal institution and law school.
With a quintessential Georgian red brick façade and wrought iron fencing, 14 Henrietta Street’s composure hides all matter of sins. It is almost impossible to imagine this was once home to over 100 tenement-dwelling Dubliners.
The tour offers visitors a chronological path through the building’s history. Visitors’ enter in the grand lobby with high ceilings and a sweeping staircase, before relaxing in large drawing rooms rich in natural light and stately presence.
As the tour progresses, so too does history’s timeline. Soon visitors are standing in not a lavish Georgian family-home, but a stark tenement, home to Dublin’s masses.
Much of the original building remains today. From the floorboards to the staircase, the decorative plasterwork to the Reckitt’s Blue and Raddle Red paintwork, real history thrives at 14 Henrietta Street.
It is with this authenticity that emotions run high. To be a visitor in 14 Henrietta Street is to walk in the footsteps of men, women and children who were born and died here.
Recreation scenes, as well as audio and film, fuel the experience beyond expectation. Truly immersive, the tour gives further insight into real tenement living conditions.
The experience ends with the final chapter in the building’s history: the Dublin housing projects of the 1960s. This became synonymous with the city’s suburban development schemes, such as the Ballymun Flats.
Covering a marathon of 300-years, the tour of 14 Henrietta Street is a pendulum-swinging. From the height of sophistication to the dark recesses of urban squalor, the experience finally ends as it balances somewhere in the middle.
14 Henrietta Street is a powerful journey told with integrity and respect for the building and those who lived in it. With this being said, it is hard to leave the building without feeling in some way changed by the experience.
The Right Honorable Richard, Lord Viscount Molesworth and his second wife Mary Jenney Usher, become the first residents to live in 14 Henrietta Street.
Prestigious professionals start moving to the street, a stark contrast to their noble neighbours.
From 1850-1860 the house was occupied by Encumbered Estates’ Court. This new business venture enabled the State to sell-on estates post-Irish famine.
Subsequently, 14 Henrietta Street became residence once again for the Dublin City Artillery Militia until 1876.
Thomas Vance purchased Number 14 in 1876 and installed 19 tenement flats within the Georgian abode.
By 1911 over 100 residents were living in 14 Henrietta Street. With little ventilation, lighting and sanitation, this residence had gone from being a luxury residence to a literal slum.
The last families left Number 14 in the late 1970s. Mass exodus had, however, been taking shape since housing developments of the 1960s began.
In 2000, Dublin City Council acquired the building in the hopes of launching it as a museum. It was not until 2018, after significant conservation took place, that it would welcome its first visitors.
14 Henrietta Street can be accessed via guided tour only. Seeing as this is the hottest ticket on the scene right now, booking in advance is advised.
Tours run Wednesday to Sunday and last 75 minutes. Note: some flights of stairs will be encountered during the visit.