The above advertisement from 1865 notes that the Northumberland Hotel was “the most central in the City, being within a few minutes walk of all the Public Buildings”. The Northumberland Hotel went on to become Liberty Hall following its purchase by Jim Larkin of behalf of the trade union movement.
The prosperous Classon family in Dublin had been responsible for the construction of the hotel, and historian J.L McCracken noted in his brilliant study New Light at the Cape of Good Hope: William Porter, the Father of Cape Liberalism that John Classon, who managed the firm Classon and Duggan:
built on Eden Quay the Northumberland Buildings which housed stalls for the sale of fruits and other goods, offices, a weighbridge, a bath-house and a chophouse. He also built the Northumberland Hotel in Beresford Place.
McCracken’s study includes this illustration of the hotel:
At the time the 1865 advertisement above was taken out, the proprietor was listed as J.C Joseph. We can compare and contrast prices for the hotel with other Dublin hotels of the time through the listings below. Note that this list provides information on the cost of breakfast, dinner, tea, bed, private rooms and attendance costs in the hotels of the Dublin of the time.
The hotel had been a meeting place for members of the nationalist Young Ireland movement, and Peter Berresford Ellis has noted that while initially the ‘Young Irelanders’ were aligned to Daniel O’Connell’s campaign for Repeal of the Union, “in July, 1846, led by William Smith O’Brien and John Mitchell, Young Irelanders expressed their disagreement with O’Connell and walked out of the meeting in Conciliation Hall, Burgh Quay, and went to the Northumberland Hotel.” The meeting they walked away from was one where O’Connell demanded that members pledge not to support physical force in any circumstances.
In a March 1905 edition of the Irish Independent, the site of the hotel was identified as a possible location for the new ‘Technical Schools’ to be constructed on the northside of the city.
Seven years later, when the hotel was essentially beyond use, it was purchased by James Larkin for his union movement. Prior to this, the union had operated from only two rooms at 10 Beresford Place. Emmet O’Connor has noted that this new, larger premises “offered rooms for band practice, Irish language classes, a choir and a drama society.” The following year, the union would also acquire a house and grounds at Croydon Park. Liberty Hall would prove a tremendous resource to the labour movement, providing the location for a printing press for example, and as Christopher Murray has noted in his biography of Sean O’Casey it’s former life as a hotel proved invaluable on occasion, not least in 1913 when “the old kitchens were still usable in the basement”. It was at Liberty Hall that the proclamation was printed on the eve of the Easter Rising.
The Liberty Hall which was created from the Northumberland Hotel was shelled and badly damanged by the gunboat Helga in 1916, but ultimately only gave way to the building which Dubliners now know as Liberty Hall, which was constructed in the first half of in the 1960s. At the time, Austin Clarke wrote a poem entitled ‘New Liberty Hall’, in which he noted that:
The unemployed may scoff but
Workers must skimp and scrape
To own so fine a skyscraper
Beyond the dream of Gandon,
Shaming the Custom House
The giant crane, the gantries.