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The Custom House is a neoclassical 18th century building in Dublin, Ireland which houses the Department of the Environment. It is located on the north bank of the River Liffey, on Custom House Quay between Butt Bridge and Talbot Memorial Bridge.
It was designed by James Gandon to act as the new custom house for Dublin Port and was his first large scale commission. When it was completed and opened for business on the 7th November 1791, it cost £200,000 to build — a huge sum at the time. The four facades of the building are decorated with coats-of -arms and ornamental sculptures representing Ireland’s rivers.
As the port of Dublin moved further downriver, the building’s original use for collecting custom duties became obsolete, and it was used as the headquarters of local government in Ireland. During the Anglo-Irish War in 1921, the Irish Republican burnt down the Custom House, in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland. Gandon’s original interior was completely destroyed in the fire and the central dome collapsed. A large quantity of irreplaceable historical records were also destroyed in the fire, including parish records of Irish births, marriages and deaths going back in some cases to the Middle Ages. It has made genealogy tracing very difficult as there is no central place for researching records, other than the parishes and counties in which people were born. Despite achieving it’s objectives, the attack on the Custom House was a disaster for the IRA because a large number of its members were captured fleeing the scene.
After the Anglo Irish Treaty, it was restored by the Irish Free State government. The results of this reconstruction can still be seen on the building’s exterior today — the dome was rebuilt using Irish Ardbraccan limestone which is noticeably darker than the Portland stone used in the original construction. This was done as an attempt to promote Irish resources.
The building is not open to the public.