The building which originally housed the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts (RHA) has been memorialised by a Dublin City Council commemorative plaque.
The Royal Hibernian Academy was founded in August 1823 and from 1825 to 1916 had its home at 35 Abbey Street.
35 Abbey Street was designed by the architect Francis Johnson, the second President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. As architect to the Board of Works from 1805, Francis Johnson worked on several of Dublin’s major public buildings, including the Chapel Royal and Record Tower in Dublin Castle, the vice-regal lodge (now Arás an Uachtárain) in the Phoenix Park, and the GPO and Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street.
Johnson was a great support of the Academy and designed and paid for the gallery building himself; it cost around £15,000. He laid the first stone in a ceremony on 29 April 1824, and the first annual exhibition opened in the gallery on 23 April 1826.
Built in the neo-Classical style as a four-bay, three-storey building, the building was destroyed in 1916 but the front façade was retained and largely rebuilt around 1920. For many years it was the premises of CIE Travel.
Speaking at the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, Dr. Abigail O’Brien President of the RHA said “All of us at the RHA are delighted with the renewed focus on our origins and in celebrating this building which was such an integral part of our foundation. We appreciate the significance of this recognition by DCC and welcome this plaque as a monument to our beginnings and a reminder of why we do what we do; with passion and care for the Arts and all Artists.
Representing The Lord Mayor of Dublin at the unveiling, Cllr Vincent Jackson said, “This plaque is a small recognition of the two centuries of care and protection of the Arts that the RHA has gifted the people of Ireland with. Without their steadfast stewardship, tutelage and attention to detail, the creative landscape of Ireland would be unrecognisable today. For a land of writers, poets and artists, we owe a great debt to the RHA for the endless compassion and support they have given our creatives for the past one hundred years.”