The Order took possession of Ely House in March 1923 and it has served as its headquarters ever since.
On its East side, St. Stephens Green is joined by Hume Street, at the top of which is framed by Ely House, one of Dublin’s most impressive large Georgian houses. The full width of Hume Street and four storeys high over basement with 36 rooms. The mansion was the first to be built in Ely Place and initially enjoyed most of the surroundings area as its garden.
This house was built in 1771 by Henry Loftus, Earl of Ely, whose family seat was at Rathfarnham Castle. The house was a centre of 18th Century social life in Dublin when the wealthy land owning families came to the capital city for a social season revolving around the pursuit of pleasure. The Loftus family had been in Ireland since 1560 and included among its members a Protestant Archbishop of Armagh founder of Trinity College and Lord Chief Justice.
The house remained in private ownership until Lady Aberdeen secured the lease for use as the Women’s National Health Association headquarters circa 1908. In 1923 the present owners, the Knights of St. Columbanus, acquired the building. The Knights applied to the Irish Georgian Society in 2003 for funds to restore the Palladian window in the stairwell as part of a larger conservation programme. Inappropriate repairs, damaged flashings, and water ingress had left the window in poor condition. The Society, recognising the importance of this project, provided over sixty percent of the window project funds.
For the purist Ely House has a frontage of 73 feet to the street and is not flanked by Georgian Terraces. The builder was Michael Stapleton a noted Dublin stuccadore whose work is evident in the delicate interior plasterwork. The external brickwork came from Bridgewater as ballast in ships. Originally six bays wide the seventh, coincidentally number seven Ely Place is noticeable by the zip line in the brickwork on the left hand side. The external wrought iron railings and balconies are a noticeable feature.
The house is a brick terraced house of seven bays and four storeys with a pitched roof and brick chimneystacks. Sash windows of nine-over-nine exist on the ground and first floors, while windows of six-over-six and three-over-three configuration are to the second floor and third floors, respectively. The left entry door added in 1811 is graced with Ionic columns and is topped by a fanlight. Each window on the first floor also maintains an early-nineteenth century cast iron balcony. The interior is ornate and boasts impressive Neoclassical detail, the most significant feature being the grand, Portland stone staircase. It features an extravagant, wrought iron and panelled balustrade with carved gilt-wood which portrays the Labours of Hercules. At its base is a statue of Hercules which is joined to the handrail. The rest of the stairhall displays intricate plasterwork complete with festoons, masks, and flower-baskets.
INSIDE THE HOUSES TREASURES INCLUDE:
Extensive stucco plastered ceilings cornices and wall panels in the Adam style.
A number of fireplaces in Carrara and Sienna marble.
Two splendid reception rooms with an anti-room between on the first floor. Magnificent carpentry in the doors door cases and trimmings.
The rear garden once an impressive formal leisure space has been developed into an office block by the Order in the 1970s. It provides income for the charitable works of the Order who have occupied this house as our headquarters since 1920’s. It is used for administrative and social purposes to serve the Order’s members and friends.