Tuesday 20 February 2018

Grand Old Lady is set for her big reveal after nip and tuck

Shelbourne Hotel

The Shelbourne hidden away under its awning
The Shelbourne hidden away under its awning
Construction workers at Shelbourne Hotel. St. Stephen's Green, Dublin
The building’s exterior being painted and restored
Painters on the top floor at the Shelbourne Hotel
Project manager Justin McCarthy and architect Dermot Collier
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

After eight months of nipping and tucking, Dublin's five-star Shelbourne hotel - aka the Grand Old Lady of St Stephen's Green - will reveal her multimillion euro facelift next week.

It has been a hive of activity underneath the hotel's temporary awning, with non-stop stripping and sanding, hammering and hoisting, painting and pointing.

Some 99,480 bricks have been cleaned and repointed, 170 chimney pots and 312 windows have been painstakingly restored and painted while segments of the 1,020sq m roof space have been patched up.

So it's no surprise to hear that this has been the most ambitious restoration project to have taken place in Ireland this year.

"It's definitely not the sort of job that comes along every day," admitted chief architect Dermot Collier of restoration company Alco Ltd.

"It's an incredible building," he added admiringly.

An incredible building - and one that boasts an incredible history.

Since Tipperary man Martin Burke established the hotel in 1824, it has had a dizzying number of artists, politicians, Hollywood film stars and royals waft through its doors.

Peter O'Toole bathed in champagne while staying here and George Moore wrote 'The Bending of the Bough'. The Chieftains formed in the Horseshoe bar, Grace Kelly rested her weary head in one of the suites, Count John McCormack recorded 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' on vinyl here - and James Cagney also did a pretty nifty dance on a grand piano.

It's also been the setting of intense political tête-à-têtes - our Constitution was drawn up in Room 112, after all.

The Shelbourne has also played host to high-society weddings and other memorable functions.

In 2004, the inside of the Shelbourne got an extensive overhaul that cost more than €80m.

However, while the ballrooms and interiors were lovingly looked after, the exterior barely got a look-in.

"A lick of paint was about the extent of it," Collier said. "But this time the outside has got a lot more attention."

The hotel's carpark on Kildare Street was transformed into a workshop where a team of 50 workers ensured the delicate cement detailings were carefully constructed and set, paint was peeled off frames and 29 Roman cement canopies were treated.

"It's been painstaking getting it over the line," Collier said.

"So much of the detail, tulips and roses, had been masked in layers of old paint - you couldn't see them properly."

The awning is due to be removed on December 17.

"Perhaps not everyone will notice the changes," Collier added.

"But for those who look up, they will be able to see something different."

Irish Independent

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