St Stephen’s Green: Of all the Georgian squares in Dublin St Stephen’s has the longest history having been an area where farm animals once grazed. It’s gets its name from an old leper hospital dedicated to St Stephen where Mercer’s Hospital now stands.
In 1663 the Dublin Corporation decided to raise funds by selling land for the construction of 96 plots, and a wall was erected around the green in 1664. Many two-storey houses were built, but by the mid-1750s these were replaced by the Georgian houses with which we are familiar.
The layout of 22-acre site was carried out by William Sheppard, and it comprises many interesting features, notably a pond that is crossed by O’Connell Bridge – the second bridge in the city with that name!
The land was purchased by Lord Aridlaun (a member of the Guinness family) in 1880, and access was made available to the general public. There are many statues on show, including those of James Joyce, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Theobald Wolf Tone and the Fusiliers’ Arch.
Merrion Square: When the Duke of Leinster built his palatial home (now Leinster House) in 1748 it was the impetus for many developers to start building south of the Liffey. The layout of Merrion Square (11 acres) started in 1762, and continued for 30 years. Owned by the Catholic Church, which
had planned to erect a cathedral there, access was made available to the general public in 1974 when Archbishop Dermot Ryan leased the property to Dublin Corporation. Some of the famous people who have lived ‘on the square’ include Oscar Wilde, Daniel O’Connell, AE Russell, WB Yeats and Sheridan Le Fanu.
Fitzwilliam Square: it is the smallest of the city’s Georgian squares (3.7 acres) and also the last to be completed. Richard Fitzwilliam developed the site, hence its name, and work continued from 1789 for three years. It comprised 69 townhouses, and access to the park is available to these keyholders only. The artist Jack B. Yeats lived in No. 18.
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