Open House: Custom House Welcomes Visitors Again

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One of the Ireland’s most iconic buildings has been restored and has re-opened to the public, 230 years after it’s original opening.

Minister Darragh O’Brien, Minister Patrick O’Donovan and Paul Kelly, CEO, Fáilte Ireland, officially opened a new visitor experience that explores the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House.

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James Gandon’s architectural masterpiece, which is the longest-serving purpose-built government building in Ireland, now houses a fully reimagined exhibition created by award-winning designers whose previous work includes exhibitions at Killarney House and Dublin Castle, with contributions from leading Irish historians and academics. 

The exhibition, which occupies the entire central area of the building, takes visitors on an interpretive journey from room to room, beginning with Dublin in the late 1700s through to the 21st century. 

The Custom House Visitor Centre features new and interactive exhibits telling the rich history of the building and showcasing its exceptional architecture. The new exhibition also  details the events of Easter week 1916 when, within hours of the outbreak of the rebellion, the building was occupied by British forces, largely saving it from destruction at that time.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Darragh O’Brien said, “The Custom House opened in 1791 and it took ten years to build.  Initially the headquarters of the Commissioners of Custom and Excise, by the twentieth century, it was the headquarters of local government in Ireland. As a pillar of the ruling British administration, the building was targeted and burnt by the IRA on the 25th May, 1921; a key action of the Irish War of Independence. The government of the independent Irish state resolved to restore the building, completing these works by 1928. It is fitting that we pay tribute to the rich history of this fine building, and honour it with a modernised exhibition. I am delighted to open this beautifully refurbished Visitor Centre today for the people of Ireland, and for our Visitors from overseas.”

Currently also housing offices for the Department of Housing, Custom House has been, and continues to be, a centre for government and policy making since it opened in 1781, and for many years it was a hub for imports and exports. 

The opening of the visitor centre follows the completion of planned restoration and maintenance works to the exterior of the Custom House planned to mark the centenary anniversary (delayed by Covid 19) of the burning of the Custom House, Dublin in May 1921.

The works included cleaning and repointing of granite paving and steps to the surround landscape, painting of 315 linear meters of cast-iron railings, full refurbishment of all windows to the Liffey façade, painting of all 536 windows and external doors, and specialist cleaning and localised repairs of the stone façade.

Like all OPW Heritage Sites admission to The Custom House Visitor Centre is FREE until December 31, 2021 but you must make a booking.

Full details on opening hours and admissions are available on heritageireland.ie

The project was funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage with additional investment under Fáilte Ireland’s Strategic Partnership with the OPW.