There has been much confusion as to the actual construction date of Stack A. The first piece of concrete evidence of Stack A can be found in the minute books of the Wide Street Commissioners of 1821 where the subject of the “ranging of the wall on the south end of the timber yard with the tobacco store” is mentioned. This body was established in 1758 to make “wide and convenient streets through the congested quarters of Dublin.”
The earliest map showing the tobacco store is dated 1821. This map was enclosed in ‘An Historical Guide to Ancient and Modern Dublin’ (1st edition), written by the Rev. G.N. Wright. Wright gives a concise description of the tobacco store: “In this store, which is now completed and in use, there is not one particle of wood or other combustible matter. There are nine vaults beneath, which altogether afford perfect and convenient storage fur 4,500 pipes of wine, allowing a walk behind the heads of the pipes as well as between them; these vaults are lighted by means of thick lenses set in iron plates in the floor of the tobacco store, but this is not sufficient to supersede the necessity of candle light.”
Wright describes the interior of Stack A in graphic detail: “The roof is supported by metal framework of an ingenious construction; and at intervals, long lanterns are inserted, the sashes of which are also metal. The entire framework is supported by three rows of cylindrical metal pillars, 26 in each row which rest upon others of granite, that are continued through the stone finer into the vaults beneath.”
John James McGregor, also writing in 1821, stated: “The tobacco stores have been finished…They are 500 feet long by 160 feet wide. The roof is of cast iron, and the building finished in the most permanent manner.” This iron work was manufactured at the Butterly Foundry in Derbyshire, founded in 1791-92.
Wright also mentions an “extensive yard for bonding timber” adjoining the tobacco store. In Boucher’s biography of Rennie, he mentions 1820 as the date for the design of fireproof warehouses in Dublin. Thus we can reasonably state, with all the evidence presented, that 1820 was the date for the construction of Stack A.
Little is known of the early history of the warehouse. It was divided into two compartments, a northern section for tobacco and a southern compartment for tea. A mezzanine floor was inserted at the northern end in 1871 and in 1884 the building was shortened by about 16 feet at the southern end to widen Custom House Quay. David J. Griffin, in his short piece ‘Architectural History of Stack A’, states that “it is likely that the iron structure of the building provided the inspiration fur the passenger shed at Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station, built in 1845, which was designed by the Irish engineer, Sir John B. MacNeill.”
The Grade One protected structure was sympathetically restored by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority in the early 2000s. The major restorations included the innovative and immense glass facade, originally designed by the brilliant Irish engineer Peter Rice, which now frames the Southern end. Peter Rice is widely regarded as one of the most distinguished structural engineers of the late twentieth century. His innovations in materials and design greatly advanced the nature of modern architecture. Following early work on the Sydney Opera House, he defined the structural elements of such significant buildings as the Centre Pompidou and the Pyramide Inversée at the Louvre in Paris. His influence has shaped a new generation of architects and engineers and he features in EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.
Neville Isdell & Mervyn Greene purchased the building in late 2013 to develop the magnificent structure into a destination at the social heart of Dublin Docklands.