General Post Office

The General Post Office (GPO) (Irish: Ard-Oifig an Phoist) in Dublin is the headquarters of the Irish postal service, An Post, and Dublin's principal post office. Sited in the centre of O'Connell Street, the city's main thoroughfare, it is one of Ireland's most famous buildings, and was the last of the great Georgian public buildings erected in the capital.

Architecture

The GPO was at first located in a small building on the site of where the Commercial Buildings used to be (now the Central Bank building) off Dame Street, and was afterwards removed to a larger house opposite the Bank of Ireland building on College Green. On 6 January 1818, the new post-office in Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) was opened for business. The foundation-stone of the building, which is built after a design of Francis Johnston, was laid by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Charles Whitworth, 1st Earl Whitworth, on 12 August 1814, attended by the Post-Masters-General, Charles O'Neill, 1st Earl O'Neill‎ and Laurence Parsons, 2nd Earl of Rosse. The structure was completed in the short space of three years for the sum of £50,000.

The front, which extends 67.1 metres (220 ft), has an Ionic portico (24.4 metres (80 ft) wide), of six fluted Ionic columns, 137.16 centimetres (54 inches) in diameter. The frieze of the entablature is highly enriched, and in the tympanum of the pediment were the royal arms until removed following restoration in the 1920s. On the acroteria of the pediment are three statues by John Smyth: Mercury on the right, with his Caduceus and purse; Fidelity on the left, with her finger on her lip and a key in her hand; and Hibernia in the centre, resting on her spear and holding a harp. The entablature, with the exception of the architrave, is continued along the rest of the front; the frieze, however, is not decorated over the portico. A balustrade surmounts the cornice of the building, which is 15.2 metres (50 ft) from the ground.

With the exception of the portico, which is of Portland stone, the whole is of mountain granite. The elevation has three stories, of which the lower or basement is rusticated, and in this respect it resembles the India House of London, where a rusticated basement is introduced, although the portico occupies the entire height of the structure.

History

During the Easter Rising of 1916, the GPO served as the headquarters of the uprising's leaders. The assault by the British forces extensively damaged the building and it was not repaired until the Irish Free State government took up the task some years later. The original columns outside are still pocked with bullet-marks. An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on display in the An Post museum at the GPO, where an exhibition highlights the history of the postal service and the GPO. The building has remained a symbol of Irish nationalism. In commemoration of the Rising, a statue depicting the death of the mythical hero Cúchulainn sculpted by Oliver Sheppard in 1911 is housed in the front of the building and was featured on the Irish ten shilling coin of 1966. Despite its fame as an iconic place of Irish freedom, ground rent continued to be paid to English and American landlords until the 1980s.

The broadcasting studios of 2RN, which later became Radio Éireann, were located at the GPO from 1928 until the 1960s. Draws for Prize Bonds are held weekly, on Fridays, in the building.

Nelson's Pillar was formerly located in the centre of O'Connell Street adjacent to the GPO, however the Pillar was destroyed by the IRA in an explosion in 1966. The Spire of Dublin now takes a dominant position on the site of the Pillar.

Images
  • The General Post Office in 2006

  • The General Post Office in an engraving from about 1827

  • New Garda recruits march past the GPO, Tóstal 1954

  • The GPO Dublin 2007.

  • A plaque commemorating the Easter Rising at the GPO, with the Irish text in Gaelic script, and the English text in Latin script

  • The GPO Dublin 2007.

  • The GPO before independence with British flag flying. Most of the building and the adjacent Hotel Metropole were destroyed in 1916.

Coordinates: 53°20′58″N 6°15′40″W / 53.349334°N 6.261075°W / 53.349334; -6.261075

Building Activity

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