The 18th century saw Dublin entering a prosperous period that wouldn’t be seen again for centuries until the tiger roared. To protect their interests the merchants formed a society for “the defence of trade against any illegal imposition and the solicitation of such laws as might seem beneficial to it”. The Dublin Guild of Merchants then sought submissions for designs for a new exchange building. It was to be built on the site of the old church of Sainte Marie del Dame – land which the Wide Street Commission had allocated for this purpose – at the south end of Parliament Street. At the time the main axis of the city was Capel Street / Parliament Street and this building would have a commanding view down those streets
Maltons “Royal Exchange. July 1792”
The submissions arrived and, narrowly beating his more illustrious compatriot James Gandon into second place, Thomas Cooley was giving the task of designing and building the Royal Exchange. Completed in 1779 the highlight of the neo-classical styled building was the impressive light filled rotunda as you entered with it’s impressive dome.
The Royal Exchange was subsequently sold to Dublin Corporation as their new headquarters in 1852 gaining with it it’s modern name; City Hall. Dublin Corporation then set about partitioning the inside of the building to create more office space closing down much of the lightness of the Cooley’s rotunda. In the 1980’s the Dublin Corporation moved their offices out of the City Hall and into their controversial new buildings on Wood Quay. This allowed the City Hall to be restored to it’s Thomas Cooley layout in time for the Dublin Millennium in 1988.