'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.
One of the last great landmarks in the East Wall was the Wiggins Teape building. Built in 1931 for the Gallaher tobacco group, this was one of several such factories constructed at this time due to the operation of protective tariffs on tobacco. The architect was John Stevenson (1890-1950) of Samuel Stevenson & Sons, Belfast. Stevenson, who was President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects from 1939 to 1943, was also responsible for the functional genius of Boland’s Bakery on Grand Canal Dock, now the Treasury Building. The facade to East Wall Road included one of the earliest known uses of reconstituted stone in Dublin. Stevenson’s classical bent was evident in the skilful massing, composition and detail of the facade - the design of which may even have been ordered by the use of regulating lines or proportioning systems.
The building was originally named Virginia House as a nod to the State from which Gallaher’s acquired their tobacco. In the late 1930s, ownership was transferred to Fry Cadbury, who renamed it Alexandra House. The building was acquired by the paper manufacturers Wiggins Teape in 1965 and renamed Gateway House.
In 2000, Dublin Corporation gave the Collen Group the go-ahead to redevelop the site for offices. The planning permission effectively authorised the demolition of the Wiggins Teape building, with the exception of part of the central portico. Local artist James Hanley successfully appealed the decision. An Bord Pleanála agreed that the factory was of architectural and historical significance should be retained. Just three days after An Bord Pleanála’s ruling, bulldozers slipped into the East Wall and bulldozed the neo-classical beauty. The Irish Times described the demolition as ‘disgraceful’. The Independent TD Tony Gregory described it as ‘an act of despicable vandalism’. The Collen Group maintained they were within their rights as the building was unlisted and dangerous.