One of the most unusual and amusing architectural details in the city, in my opinion, is the stone carving of monkeys playing billiards on a window column at No. 1 Kildare Street.
Now housing the the Alliance Française, the beautiful building was built for the Kildare Street Club in 1860-1 by architects Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward. Founded in 1782, the club was based at No. 6 Kildare Street from 1782 – 1860 and then at No. 1 Kildare Street from 1861 – 1977.
A fire ripped apart its original premises on 11 November 1860 killing three maid-servants and destroying their 15,000 volume library. A superstitious person might see something in the fact on May 4 1967, a fire swept through the top floor of No. 1 Kildare Street causing extensive damage.
The club merged with the Dublin University Club in 1976, thereafter sharing the premises of the latter at 17, St Stephen’s Green. However it still owns No.1 Kildare Street and currently leases the building out to a Heraldic Museum and the Alliance Française.
This author of this Sunday Independent article from 1969 is of the opinion that that they were the handywork of Purdey & Son.
While an Irish Times article (Nov 25, 1961) alleges it was the O’Shea brothers and a piece from the Irish Press (Nov 7, 1975) states that it was Charles W. Harrison. For the record, it seems our friends over at Archiseek are on the pro O’Shea side.
Frederick O’Dwyer in his 1997 book The Architecture of Deane and Woodward gave his own opinions on the matter:
Either way, the monkeys are a wonderful piece of work. They themselves have been the source of many jokes, table quiz questions and riddles as this Irish Times piece from August 15 1928 suggests: