One half of these golden pair of exceptional semi-d’s has just come to the market, writes Tommy Barker.
Blackrock Road, Cork City €775,000
Size: 186 sq m (2,003 sq ft)
Best Feature: Blackrock Road period home
THERE’S a golden touch to an attractive, architecturally-gilded pair of Edwardian semi-d’s on Cork’s Blackrock Road — but, it’s not a vulgar Trumpian gold ’n’ glitter assault, it’s more by name and association.
The origins of the side-by-side pair are recalled as one on the right, El Dorado, comes up for sale for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, while its adjoining ‘twin’ is called El Oro, meaning The Gold.
El Dorado, meanwhile, can translate from the Spanish as ‘The Golden One’ and the backstory is that they were constructed by a builder whose surname was Murphy, in 1904, as gifts and homes for his daughters after he came into a small windfall of cash in those pre-Sweepstakes and Lotto-winning days.
The same Mr Murphy’s also credited with doing a number of other private homes along Cork’s favoured Ballintemple-Blackrock roads.
Such parental generosity of building homes in this vicinity wasn’t a one off, as in fact another local precedent exists, where in the late 1700s/early 1800s a John Lindsey, who owned vast tracts of land in Tipperary, built large houses in Ballintemple for his daughters, naming them Maryville, Janeville and Lindville: all three of those properties now have their names carried over in housing estates and parks built on their valuable ‘golden’ grounds.
In fact should some 21st century parent feel the wish to similarly provide homes or sites for a couple of their children, side-by-side, a duo of sites for detached homes on the Blackrock Road by Menloe Gardens comes to market this month.
The sites, behind the late Peter and Margaret Barry’s home, are close on one-third of an acre each, and have planning granted after a Bord Pleaneala appeal for one single storey detached and one two-storey detached. Agents Frank V Murphy & Co guide them at c €475/485,000 each (see p2)
Meanwhile, here’s El Dorado, one prepared earlier, built 113 years ago, and still in fine, upstanding health.
It last changed hands more than 20 years ago, bought as a do-er up family home by an active family who had built and renovated up to a dozen houses previously during a peripatetic career moving all around Ireland, and this was bought as ‘just the job’ for long time rooted-ness.
Fast forward 23 or 24 years, and the family have grown and moved out, it’s trading-down time, and the parents say they still have enough energy for a trader-down, and doer-up, smaller next home — hopefully in the vicinity, they suggest.
Back when they purchased El Dorado, it had been converted into six bedsits, so the first task was to take down partition walls and kitchenettes and reinstate it as single, private family home once more - which it clearly very much is once more as it comes for re-sale via Florence Gabriel and Ann O’Mahony of Sherry FitzGerald, who guide at €775,000.
Its prior sub-division into six units hadn’t mucked about with the period details such as sash windows, doors, cornices, ceiling plasterwork, fireplaces and the like, so there’s still lots of originality here to savour.
Not only that; though, it has already been extended quite simply and cleverly at ground floor level into the immensely long back garden, scarcely making a dent in the garden’s length.
In fact, the back garden is still 180’ long, and it’s book-ended by a slate-clad workshed/potting shed; the front garden and freshly gravelled drive is 130’ and the house itself is now 50’ deep, with a 21’ long entrance hall with original encaustic tiled floor, and 28’ long kitchen/dining room.
The owners drafted in the services and advice of a friend, architect Frank O’Mahony of Wilson Architecture, to advise on their extension which as a result has a purposeful, contemporary vibe and feel, and flow that makes it ideal for large party gatherings as well as being highly functional.
El Dorado turns its face and facade to the south, and to the Blackrock Road, so that means the rear aspect is a less favourable north.
To get around that, there’s a sloping glass panel inserted between the house’s original return back wall and the new addition, and it funnels light down on the kitchen worktops either side of a broad Smeg cooker with gas hobs. And, by night, a length of task track lighting on tensioned cables fulfills a similar role.
This kitchen/dining room has a large island, also with painted units and granite tops near a retained recess in a side wall which would have housed the original range, and the room ends then with sliding doors to a patio and garden beyond.
It’s close to 11’ wide, nicely compartmentalised for differing, casual family dining and cooking functions, and this extended kitchen then has to one side a length of rooms serving as a home office/reading space, pantry/back kitchen, and utility with guest WC.
Each of those functional rooms performs a separate role, while the clever architectural touch is that their dividing walls only go up to about eye height, with cut out wall sections above, so there’s a long and ‘borrowed’ view from one to the next, creating an extra feel of space and continuity.
It also allows light to permeate from one area to another, and several rooflights above (there’s a smart, long apex rooflight over the reading section in particular) meaning they are as bright as possible.
Scene-stealer in this most family-friendly of multi-purpose rooms is a worn, lipstick-red leather sofa with its back to the cook.
It’s redolent of something you’d see as the back seat in a classic, large saloon car of the mid-1900s, inviting one and all to fall into and bark the order “home, James, and don’t spare the horses.”
Many family days and nights alone could be spent out in this back area and onto the patio which gets westerly sun as it’s out of the main three-storey house’s shadow, but that would be to ignore the charms of the original, interconnected two principal reception rooms.
Upfront, El Dorado has a pleasant living room just shy of 13’ by 12’, with deep south-facing bay window with three sash windows and panelling.
There’s a wood burning stove inserted in a period chimney-piece with cast iron surround, varnished wood floor, ceiling coving and picture rails.
Then, timber double doors with sandblasted glass upper panels link back to what the family rightly call their music room, and it’s a room with piano and guitars in situ, which has earned its spurs as a son is now a professional musician.
This room also has period architectural trim, another open fireplace with cast iron Art Nouveau or Edwardian flourishes, and (like the adjoining rooms) the chimney breast’s full area of width and height is taken up by a large, unframed expanse of mirror: the effect is to lend a modern, contemporary vibe to a section which is usually graced by hefty framed or even gilded mirrors.
The ground floor has a circular flow going on with it, thanks to access to the reading ‘nook/ from the music room and again with kitchen access via the hall.
Not only has the house been great for adult parties, say the owners, it’s also easily accommodated gangs of children and their friends at parties and play times.
Travel then up the stairs to the first floor and return, with two first floor bedrooms, one front, one back, with a main family bathroom behind on a return, next to a office/study/bed five with back garden views overlooking an early flowering plum tree.
The front room’s the master bedroom, with two sash windows (they are simple, one-over-one pane sashes) facing south, and it has an en suite with shower, and a walk-in robe.
On and up another floor, there are two more bedrooms, one front, one back. For some who come to view, the attic level front bedroom might be pressed into master suite status, in place of the first floor’s en suite one underneath.
This attic room’s very attractive with its sloping ceilings, it too has an en suite, and the scene setters are the pair of sash windows set into the front gable, with retained eight-over one sash window configurations which give both El Dorado and El Oro next door such visual appeal from the road and front garden, with lots of parking/turning space, plus a central magnolia which flowers twice a year (pic, right).
This duo of ‘sibling’ houses gets a special mention in the Buildings of Ireland guide which notes “this pair is an attractive example of Edwardian suburban housing, retaining its original features,” and singles out for mention how the “the height of the pair is accentuated by the finialed gables,” and lists out their projecting gables, canted bays, glazing mix, pitched slate roofs with decorative terracotta ridge tiles, timber fascias/bargeboards, cat-iron rainwater goods with hopper heads, moulded plaster continuous sill courses at first floor and attic levels, as well as render pilasters, entablatures and dentilated pediments, half-glazed timber doors with sidelights and overlights, decorative floor tiles and limestone thresholds.
So, there you go.
Overall condition of El Dorado is very good, especially for its age, and it was underpinned a number of years ago and the main chimneys were relined.
However, when bought and lined up for its next occupants, it’s likely to get some extra attention: nothing’s too pressing, probably, but some of the old sash windows could do with some conserving and draught-proofing, and the original bargeboards on high also need some attention in the near future.
Bidders may draw up their own wishlist, and perhaps upgrade the sanitary ware/showers in the unostentatious bathrooms, or upgrade the laminate flooring in the bedrooms.
In the event, just how the bidding goes may very well determine just how much some people will have left over for immediate spending, or what they can comfortably put off for a few years more down the line, as finances permit.
The location and period provenance, plus garden size, is going to guarantee keen interest, and many keen to view may already be living in the vicinity just waiting for the right property to come along.
Exact location is directly opposite two other suburban Cork city period classics, the 1800 built Moseley Villas with its twin, broad bowed end bays, and the adjacent 1830s ‘Strawberry Gothic’ Lichfield Cottage, one-time home to George Boole, the UCC maths professor who’s called the father of modern day computing thanks to the insights of his Boolean algebra which facilitates today’s coders.
Back ‘just’ a quarter of a century ago, El Dorado’s current vendors too were already living on the Blackrock Road, and they jumped for the chance to buy El Dorado when it came up for the taking.
Elsewhere, other residents have traded up and down along the road, almost a chain of trades and Sherry FitzGerald were involved in one quite recent example: back last April, they launched another period semi-d called Ashdene near Lindville.
Ashdene was a bigger, earlier (late-Victorian) version of El Doradao, expensively upgraded and already extended, on beautiful landscaped gardens.
It had launched in the high €900,000s and sold for €1.03m, as its vendors moved across the Blackrock Road paying c €1.65m for a larger period family home called Woodsgift, on 0.7 of an acre.
Thankfully for this year’s home hunters in this chic, des-res hinterland, El Dorado’s unlikely to get into these sorts of price levels.
But, it’s an early test of the spring market, and of the confidence levels of home hunters.