Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Joy in Restoring Historic in Limerick, Ireland

Have you ever fallen in love with an older home that needed a great deal of work, but somehow spoke to you.  "Help, I am worth saving."  Older homes can be like aging beauties, "Don't look at me as I am, but remember me as I was."  There is so much history within walls of older homes,  both sad and  happy, but in need of care and interest, and this is one of the challenges -- in need of money.

In the June 7th issue of the Wall Street Journal,  there was an article that caught my eye.  "Ireland's Neglected Georgian Gems."  Merritt Bucholz, an American architect, living in Dublin, is slowly restoring a Georgian, five-story house, in a not-so-nice neighborhood on the edge of Limerick's Georgian quarter.

Original Georgian architecture, classically inspired, built during the 18th century, primarily, features a boxy style, symmetrical exterior, paneled front door topped by an elaborate crown top, chimneys on both sides, and multi-paned windows, never paired.  There are many versions and  many row houses built with the same characteristics.  A beautiful example here in the United States is the Westover Plantation, built in 1730 by William Byrd, founder of Richmond, Virginia. The wings of  the home were added much later, but you can see the classical Georgian style in the main house.

Limerick was an 18th-century boom town but has not been included in Ireland's recent booms, although the residents of Limerick are doing what they can to restore some of the Georgian homes.  Mr. Bucholz spends one night a week in Limerick where he is the head of the architecture department at the University of Limerick.  He bought his Georgian home (not the one pictured here, of course) for $288,000 and so far the restoration has cost him another quarter of a million.  The house was gutted almost totally from the inside as he began with the original bricks. "I think of these old buildings as organic things, slowly becoming part of nature."  It does not bother him if cracks appear after reconstruction, as he says the house has to resettle and come together.  His goal is not to create a perfect home but to re-create the essence of the structure.  To appreciate a building that is 300 years old is not for the faint-hearted and takes a certain amount of courage, vision and patience.

Westover Plantation, 1730, Richmond, VA.  Stephen Lea.
Frank McCourt, author of Angels's Ashes grew up in Limerick, Ireland, although he was born in the United States.  And his memories of Limerick are not glowing ones of Georgian homes, but of heart-wrenching poverty.  There is so much sadness in the world, that to find beauty where you can and appreciate long-ago craftsmen, builders, gardeners, architects, to me, is a worthwhile goal.


  1. Pity you don't have a picture of the houses being restored. I used to live in a Queen Anne house in England which needed a lot of work before we first moved in.

  2. In the article, there were just the interior shots. Perhaps the architect did not want his home publicized, and there is always the intellectual property problem. I once asked permission of the Wall Street Journal to use a photo. It would have cost over $300, so I am wary. Queen Anne -- to be named after a monarch gives such panache to the design. A future blog by you, Jo, about your Queen Anne home?

  3. Our first home was built in 1925. We did a lot of restoration, and some modernizing, but we kept all the floors. Amazing wood floors. The asbestos kitchen tiles, not such a huge fan.
    I admire this guy taking on a project like this, and would love to follow the project through photos. Do you know if he's doing before, during, and after stuff?
    Tina @ Life is Good

  4. I'll check and see if I can find out more information. Our homes, be they big, small, expensive, modest, historic, or not, they are "home," and losing them to fire, flood, storm, is heart-wrenching. The fires in Colorado will be my next blog.