A touch of grandeur

For the right buyer, No 2’s renovation will be satisfying and gratifying, writes Tommy Barker

IT’S always stimulating to get a surprise on a house and property visit. No 2 North Mall is full of surprises — pleasant ones.

Now just tipping over 200 years old, this city building previously called North Mall House hasn’t been lived in for years and years. While it did serve in recent decades as offices, it’s as easy to see it work as a home again as anything else.

Oh, and more good news: if you buy No 2, you get No 1 into the bargain: this former, smaller home was converted over a century ago to warehouse use, with a carriageway door inserted in its facade, and now it adds to the amount of property on offer (as it’s in poor order, No 1 also adds to the conservation and renovation work to be done.)

For the right buyer, No 2’s renovation will be satisfying and gratifying, repaying the compliment by giving back a building of exceptional elegance, in an equally exceptional city setting. On a practical level, there’s a link (on two levels) to a separate two-storey building behind in the high-walled courtyard, which is big enough to park over a dozen cars, reached via a shared arched side lane between Nos 2&3.

Architectural aficionados will be familiar with No 2’s exterior: on Cork’s North Mall, it’s outstanding in several ways, not least for the elegance of its symmetry and its broad, central bow holding three timber sash windows on each of its graceful three levels.

Its facade is red brick above red sandstone, with limestone sills and steps: it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to reckon that this stone was quarried out of the sandstone cliff directly behind the North Mall and under Blarney Street, making the North Mall one of Cork city’s most elegant riverside boulevards.

The north channel of the River Lee curves around here, so Nos 1 and 2 look up toward UCC’s Tyndall Institute (visited last year by the Queen Elizabeth), and to the Mercy Hospital, whose original, main building had once been a Cork’s Lord Mayor’s residence.

This is old Cork, steeped in both physical and cultural history, once home to an old Franciscan friary. Directly across the Lee is a former home of one George Boole, father of modern day computing thanks to his Boolean algebra. While Boole’s house has been badly damaged by ravages of time and a partial building collapse, there’s surely enough IT entrepreneurs and major IT companies in Cork to rescue it in his memory. Given that it’s small, perhaps they could spill over some of their largesse to Nos 1 & 2 North Mall — they’d make a great small museum or visitor centre a la Limerick’s Pery Square.

It could, too, make for professional offices, a language or business school, restaurant or some other commercial uses. How about neighbouring Irish Distillers (aiming to spend €100m on a Jameson plant extension in Midleton) casting an appreciative eye on this once more?

And, what a private house it would make, as a whole or in sections!

It comes to market guiding €500,000 for vendors Cork County Council, primarily as a commercial offering via John Paul Sheehan of Lisney. He accepts there may well be private residential interest, given the price guide, its interior quality, gracious rooms, location, and site size: it’s on one fifth of an acre, the largest site of all on North Mall, which has a mix of occupants on its south-facing and river aspected row.

The detailing starts at the front door case, with carved Corinthian columns, frieze work and fan light, ensconced beyond cast iron railings. Go a few steps inside, and the quality of the outer and inner halls steps up further, with exceptional vaulted ceilings, detailed tracery and plasterwork, and feature staircase windows, including an oval return gable window with fine plaster details on its splayed surround.

Door cases too are engaging, displaying an eye for proportion and craftsmanship: the joy is just how good much of the retained architectural detail is, and its rooms sizes are hospitable.

VERDICT: Remarkable order for 200 years of age, and huge potential, but up for sale with lousy timing.


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