This photograph of O’Connell Bridge and O’Connell Street from 1957 is one of our most popular images. It always grabs people’s attention as they browse through our collections, and is a snapshot of a city from another era.
The sparse traffic on the bridge allows the elegant design on O’Connell Bridge to be seen. Originally designed by James Gandon in 1791, the bridge was redesigned by Bindon Stoney in 1877. Stoney flattened the bridge and widened it to match the width of O’Connell Street, making the bridge almost square. The balustrades and ornamental gas lamps gave a Parisian air to the construction. These lamps were changed from the three-armed originals to single-armed lamps (which you can see in the photo below) and then back to the original design in the 1990s.
Unfortunately, this photograph was too late to record the large copper basin with plastic flames that was briefly placed in the central traffic island in 1953. The decoration did not last long before it was thrown over the side of the bridge into the Liffey. The art critics behind this act of sabotage have never come forward or been made public.
Nelson’s Pillar still stands tall and proud in the background, dominating the skyline, with the spire of Findlater’s Church in the distance almost like a reflection. A decade later, Nelson’s Pillar would no longer be there, and the gap would not be filled until the new millennium and the construction of the Spire.
Though perhaps it is the traffic itself that adds to the nostalgia of the image, with the mix of Morris Minors, bicycles with baskets and the sheer number of fedoras to be seen. The cigarette advertisements flanking the entrance to O’Connell Street are also a thing of the past, but have been replaced by other addictions.
If you remember the vista of O’Connell Bridge and Street presented by this photograph, we hope this little trip down memory lane brings you some joy this morning.
All images available @Irish Photo Archive