Montenotte House, home to the Cope Foundation, was the first building on our itinerary that morning and Mary Byrne, administrator at Cope, warmly welcomed us to the Foundation’s imposing neo-classical mansion, known as Montenotte House. Members gathered together in the colonnaded, top-lit, double-height, rectangular hall space, to greet friends, chat and partake of the festive fare on offer. And refreshed, the group was free to explore the first floor rooms via the magnificent marble staircase. Members took time to linger on the colonnaded balcony to admire the exquisite symmetry of the house’s Italianate features. Mary Byrne kindly traced the history of the house from its original early Victorian ownership through to the present day owners who relatively recently, undertook substantial conservation and restoration of the house.
Next on our itinerary, was the lovely finely proportioned three-bay late Georgian building, Fitzgerald House, Summerhill North, headquarters to Cork’s Chamber of Commerce. Apart from admiring the wrought-iron entrance screen, ionic door-case, and decorative fanlight, there was also the opportunity to enjoy the exclusive views of Kent Railway Station from the ground and first floor windows of this beautifully restored house. Dr Alicia St Leger captivated her audience with an excellent talk on the Fitzgeralds, the last family to live in the house. Seamus Fitzgerald, the late head of the family, died in 1972. But Seamus Fitzgerald still lives on in the house: A fine bronze bust of Seamus, sculpted by Seamus Murphy and on loan from the Fitzgerald family, resides in the entrance hall. The recent, sympathetic and quality restoration by its current owners, Cork Chamber, ensures a new lease of life for this venerable house for many decades to come.
A short walk up hill brought us to the former Church of Ireland church, St Luke’s. The church is a well-known local landmark with its elegant steeple that towers over the streetscape. This iconic Italianate Romanesque church, together with its many fine details, including rose windows and decorative colonettes, were admired by all. The remarkable history of the Hill family of Cork architects, was imparted by the historian and author, Dagmar Ó Riain Raedel to a rapt audience. The present structure, designed by William Henry Hill, was the third church to stand on the site. It was consecrated on the 8th February, 1889 and it was the first church built by the Church of Ireland after the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland Act of 1869. Sadly, St Luke’s was deconsecrated in 2003 and it now serves as a cultural centre. It is owned by Cork City Council.
Lastly, The Ambassador Hotel, Military Hill, beckoned hungry Georgians to Christmas Lunch. The Ambassador, also designed by William Henry Hill, is a long brick building with attractive colonial style verandas that allowed former residents (patients of the ‘Home for Protestant Incurables’) to take the air on this elevated site. Happily, all those present on that December morning, were in fine form as we celebrated the coming of Christmas and the close of the Cork chapter’s tenth anniversary year.
Special thanks to all our hosts and to the chapter for planning and arranging a most enjoyable end of year event. As a token of our regard for the magnificent work undertaken over the past decade, by our highly esteemed chapter chairman, Kevin Hurley, the occasion was marked with a presentation to Kevin.