Thursday 13 December 2018

Back to the 1930s in Shankhill

No 23 Aubrey Park and its owners' Morris motor were both built in 1935

Una at the front of the property with the Morris 8. Photo: Bryan Meade
Una at the front of the property with the Morris 8. Photo: Bryan Meade
The frontage
Una and the Morris 8
The new extension opens completely
The extension from the inside out
The living room with original fireplace
The dining room
One of the bedrooms
A modern bathroom
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

The year was 1935. The world's first ever television programme was broadcast from Berlin. Malcolm Campbell became the first person to drive a car at over 300mph and Howard Hughes set a new air speed record.

Meanwhile in De Valera's Ireland, 1935 saw outrage at the Abbey theatre's premier of O'Casey's The Silver Tassie while thousands more were out marching in the streets to protest about, em, jazz music.

In 1935 the Anti Jazz Campaign was at its height, driven by the Gaelic League and supported by the State and the Church. At one big march in Mohill, Co Leitrim (more country music oriented) agitated young people toted signs stating "Down With Jazz" and "Out with Paganism". Supported by all parties, The Public Dancehalls Act 1935 finally clamped down on jazz by legislature. It's still in force today.

On the housing front, those who could afford an average sized home in Dublin were being offered a new addition - an enclosed and attached garage to hold and protect that new totem of mobility, the family car.

The frontage
The frontage

Motoring had been the preserve of the upper classes in the early 1900s but the arrival of the mass produced Model T made it possible for an average family to acquire an affordable car. But it was the 1930s before family car ownership became common enough for builders in Ireland to include built-on garages as standard.

Una Zeni and her husband Barry O'Halloran, are big fans of all things 1920s and 1930s. They're also vintage motor nuts. So when they acquired Lorenza, a 1935 built semi at Aubrey Park, a private cul-de-sac in Shankhill, Co Dublin in 1995, they strived (unlike most at the time) to use their skills both to preserve it and to restore it. This included the 'cream cracker' fireplaces and the rare original garage laid out exactly as it provided in the Dev days.

What's also interesting is that their prized possession, a burgundy Morris 8 Series 1 soft top, also happens to have been built in 1935. So not surprisingly, when Barry isn't driving it (he uses the Morris as his regular car on sunny days) it fits like a glove into the garage. Barry's late father was a mechanic and a vintage car enthusiast and he also owned a 1935 Morris 8 just like it.

Una is an architectural technician and a trained furniture restoration expert while Barry is a building surveyor with an interest in antiques - all skills came into play in the careful restoration and later extension of Lorenza. Una's projects have included restoring a 1920s valve radio set and modding it up to get Chicago 1920s Radio on digital. Her elegant dining table and chairs were also salvaged and restored (they were going into a Halloween bonfire).

"When we first found the house it was in completely original condition and because we both love old stuff, there was no way we were going to remove those fireplaces, or the cornicings and other original details."

Barry adds: "Although they weren't fashionable when we bought the house we knew those fireplaces would have their day again." Best of all, the original 'face' of the house was intact thanks to the presence of its very first front door; and particularly pleasing to Barry, the original garage was there with its double doors.

The new extension opens completely
The new extension opens completely

The windows were also there but unsavable. So the couple had exact replicas made to keep the character of the house. "We redid the whole roof and only some of the original tiles could be saved. So these were put to one side and used to redo the front and side of the house while the back roof has all the new tiles on it," says Barry.

On top of this the house was rewired, replastered, replumbed and a newly engineered floor installed along with new bathrooms. They added a Shomera in the back garden.

In 2005 they extended the house over the garage, to the side passage and at the back. With the new contemporary kitchen and living space, the result has been the opening up of the rear of the house to provide for a combination of elegant older receptions and character and more robust contemporary spaces for their children and everyday family living.

The glazed rear ground floor doors open out totally to the garden so on a sunny day it's all very 1930s American country club.

Accommodation includes an entrance hall, a living room, a dining room, a very large open plan kitchen, lounge and dining space. There's a utility room, and four bedrooms, the master chamber with its own ensuite. The attic has been floored to provide even more space and of course, there's the original 1930s garage with its timber and glazed double doors.

Although the house now stands at just under 2,000 sq ft, the couple have four children aged from 10 to 23 and they want somewhere a bit larger to give the teenagers more space. So they're trading up locally.

The extension from the inside out
The extension from the inside out

The Morris 8 goes with them although maybe those seeking to keep 1935 house and car together might persuade them to part with it - if they make a suitable offer.

But for now they're holding on to it to take part next weekend in the year's biggest vintage car event, the Gordon Bennett Rally.

Indo Property

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