"I’m not just restoring a hotel. I’m restoring a piece of Ireland,”
said Liam Doyle, general manager of The Shelbourne. “The Irish have
had a love affair with this hotel for almost 200 years.”
After closing in March 2005 for a major restoration, The
Shelbourne will reopen in time for the Ryder Cup in September. Upon
its reopening, it will for the first time wave the Renaissance
Ireland’s best-known and best-loved hotel, The Shelbourne was
mentioned in James Joyce’s “Ulysess;” the Irish Consititution was
drafted here in 1922; and authors have written entire novels about
Its guests have included William Thackeray, Princess Grace, the
Dalai Lama and President Kennedy. Its location is literally and
figuratively in the heart of Dublin, next door to the Parliament
and across from St. Stephen’s Green.
“The Shelbourne is the center of Dublin, from a communal,
literary and social perspective,” Doyle said.
While the renovation project is so massive that at this writing
The Shelbourne looks more like a dusty construction site than a
fine hotel, Doyle promises everything will be painstakingly
returned to its original splendor. Ceilings that had been lowered
during the 1950s are being punched out, revealing their original
soaring heights; chandeliers have been temporarily whisked away to
restore the intricate gold-leaf design. The elevator, built in 1906
and holding no historical or nostalgic value, will be removed to
better highlight the original sweeping 1824 staircase.
“Everything will be as it was designed to be,” Doyle said.
The hotel’s most beloved spots to meet for a drink and a chat
will remain exactly where and how they always were just a bit
spiffed up. Lord Mayor’s Lounge will continue to be a favorite of
Dublin locals and high society, who come for morning coffee and
traditional afternoon tea. And politicians and playwrights can
continue to belly up to the dark and windowless Horseshoe Bar.
Their favorite stool will be waiting. A Dublin landmark for more
than 50 years, the Horseshoe is especially popular with the
“This is a ‘champagne-and-Guiness’ bar and it’s in the hearts
and minds of many a Dubliner,” said Doyle.
Constructed in 1750 as side-by-side Georgian townhomes on
fashionable St. Stephen’s Green, The Shelbourne has operated as a
hotel since 1824. From the very beginning, it catered to the cream
of Irish society. In 1863, it was renovated in mid-Victorian style,
designed to compete with Paris and London’s finest hotels. By 1867,
the new facade and interior were complete, with a coffee room,
ladies coffee room, table d’hote room, reading room, smoking room,
billiards room, hairdressing room and telegraph office, as well as
15 bedrooms with bathroom and 24 first-class sitting rooms arranged
During the 1916 Easter Rising, more than 1,000 Irish men and
women rebelled on the streets of Dublin against British rule, but
that didn’t stop the fine ladies of the city from convening for
afternoon tea. Only when a sniper’s bullet blew off the roses
pinned to one of the women’s hats did the guests put down their
teacups and hurry to the hotel’s reading room for safety. Six years
later the constitution for the new Irish Free State was drafted at
The Shelbourne, in Room 112 (now called The Constitution Suite,
reserved for functions).
“This,” Doyle said, reverently pausing in the sun-drenched room,
“is the best real estate in all of Ireland.”
For pre-opening reservations or information, see
www.renaissancehotels.co.uk/dubbr or call the pre-opening suite at
Book reservations through 800-627-7468;
Commission: 8-10 percent.