Historic Phoenix Park celebrates 350 years as heartbeat of capital
IT has hosted concerts and papal visits, seen murders and motor racing, and now one of Europe's largest city parks will be commemorated with a year-long celebration.
Dublin's Phoenix Park is 350 years old this year and the Office of Public Works (OPW) plans a series of historical re-enactments, lectures and family fun days to celebrate.
First conceived as a park to breed deer and game, it was designed to keep up the "splendure of government" on the orders of King Charles II in 1662. Not until 1747 was the 707-hectare (1,752-acre) park opened to the public, but the people of Dublin got an enduring treasure.
Almost one-third is covered by trees, mainly broadleaf species such as oak, ash, lime and beech, while a herd of fallow deer has lived there since the 1660s.
It is also home to some of the capital's finest buildings, including the Viceregal Lodge, the official residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland built in 1754, which later became Aras an Uachtarain in 1922.
The Magazine Fort, built in 1734, still remains, along with the Francis Johnston's buildings, which were added in 1801. The Victorian People's Flower Garden is also in place, along with Dublin Zoo, which opened in 1830, making it one of the world's oldest.
Such was the high esteem with which the park was regarded, that 'The Dublin Builder' noted in 1861: "The Phoenix Park is justly regarded with pride by every citizen, and with astonishment and delight by every stranger. For extant and natural beauty it stands unequal."
Yesterday, OPW Minister Brian Hayes announced details of the Phoenix Park 350 celebrations which will include the creation of a new arboretum, and restoration of the Frame Yard at the Victorian Walled Garden.
A new Phoenix Park archive will be housed in one of the park lodges, and Chesterfield Avenue will be opened for pedestrians and cyclists at weekends from the Phoenix Monument to the Mountjoy roundabout.
A street party will be held at Easter, while there will also be historical re-enactments.
"I am delighted to announce that the park is celebrating the 350th anniversary of its establishment and the OPW has proudly been looking after it since 1860," Mr Hayes said.
"This is a magnificent amenity for all in the heart of Dublin city and access to this wonderful space is free. I look forward to seeing the various projects and events unfold throughout the year."
The park is also associated with major sporting events, including motor racing which has been hosted since 1903. The Phoenix Cricket Club was formed in 1830 and is one of the oldest in the world, while the All-Ireland Polo Club was founded in 1873.
In 1979, more than one million people attended an open air Mass during the papal visit of John Paul II. The park also had its darker hours, most notably in 1882, when the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and his undersecretary Thomas Henry Burke, were stabbed to death with surgical knives while walking from Dublin Castle. An insurgent group called 'the Invincibles' claimed responsibility.