The first, €950,000, phase of stabilising the 18th century building which for a crucial period was the lodgings of George Boole — the founder of Boolean algebra, which underpins the workings of today’s computers — is now coming to a close, though it’s likely to be two more years before it opens fully as a visitor and innovation centre.
The work-in-progress near the Tyndall Institute, Mercy Hospital, and the historic North Mall where other important buildings have been conserved, was visited in recent days by the just-retired president of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy, and the project is co-funded by UCC and Cork City Council.
No 5 was the first Cork lodgings of mathematician George Boole in the 1850s when he took up a professorship at the fledgling Queens University, and it’s where he wrote An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), which laid out a symbolic logic which forms the basis of modern computer science and electronic circuitry.
The Georgian building, dating to the 1740s, will be dedicated to his legacy. The first phase of restoration work on the weather-ravaged building, which had been vacant for two decades, began with Cumnor Construction in July, consolidating the building’s structure, reroofing, reinforcing foundations and stabilising the walls.
Work treating woodworm and wet and dry rot is underway, due for completion by early April, says Neil Purkiss, senior executive architect at Cork City Architects’ Department.
It’s likely that during George Boole’s seminal two-year residency at No 5 that his lodging quarters spanned an entire floor of the building which looks out on a graceful bend in the river.
It’s 200 yards from the Tyndall Institute, where some of the IT research work and a company spin-off helped lead to the arrival of Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality company, to Cork later this year, at the new Capitol building.
Back at Grenville Place, this quay-set building was in its last use carved up into eight bedsits, and has been assailed by fire, floods and ill-fortune before being saved at the last moment; restoration works have revealed tessellated floor tiles, 18th century plasterwork and joinery and “the unique character of a building that will form a part of the city’s scientific heritage has started to emerge,” say the architects.
City Manager Ann Doherty said, “Boole House is now being salvaged in time to honour the man who once lived there, and it will make a lasting contribution to the rich historic fabric of the city.”
Departing UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said it had “international scientific associations with the man who helped to create the digital age. Its conservation and integration into University College Cork’s estate will ensure that this historic site will be permanently preserved and made accessible while highlighting Ireland’s role in contributing to international scientific developments and innovations.”