The Lafayette Building on the corner of D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street is a real Dublin landmark, and stands in great contrast to O’Connell Bridge House next to it. It seems younger Dubs refer to O’Connell Bridge House as the ‘Heineken Building’, but the corporate advertising on the building has changed several times! The Lafayette Building, which looks straight down O’Connell Street, is a far more visually pleasing building. It takes its contemporary name from the famous Lafayette photographers. As Christian Casey has noted in her architectural study of Dublin, it was built for the Liverpool and Lanchasire Insurance Company in the 1890s. Casey has described the building as a “Portland stone baronial excercise with Gothic and Ruskinian leanings”. J.J O’Callaghan was the architect, and the work was dubbed ‘O’Callaghan’s Chance’ by his contemporaries!
O’Callaghan’s contribution to Dublin’s architecture was significant, and as Frederick O’Dwyer has noted he designed a number of Dublin public houses for example, among them Mooney’s on Harry Street but also pubs on Baggot Street, Amiens Street and South Richmond Street among others. O’Callaghan was the architect responsible for the Dolphin Hotel, which for many years was to be found at Essex Street in Temple Bar. The building remains today.
The stonework of the Lafayette Building gives some indication of its former life. Above the Westmoreland Street entrance to the building, the London and Lanchasire Insurance Company logo can be seen. The building was originally constructed for use by this company:
In the front of the building, John Purcell’s tobacco importers and cigarette suppliers are to be found:
The Dublin City Public Library collection contains this fantastic image of John Purcell’s shop in a former life, facing onto D’Olier Street.
Some will remember that in 2001 this building controversially became home to a Manchester United shop and cafe, which led The Irish Times to note that “it is surely ironic that Foley’s statue of Daniel O’Connell, the “Liberator of Ireland”, should now gaze across the Liffey at a retail outlet for an English soccer team.”