Sometimes one address can tell you a lot about a city. You can trace the booms and busts, the times of peace and the times of violence, by examining an address, and the people who spent time there.
That’s certainly the case with 81 and 82 North Wall Quay, a former pub and warehouse, which is now the site of The Mayson. The Mayson is a redevelopment of two protected structures: a townhouse built in 1860 and an industrial warehouse dating from 1870. Given the protected nature of the site, the architects had to ensure the development took into account the existing structures. A two-storey steel extension rises from the top of the warehouse, a nod to the area’s industrial heritage.
81 North Wall Quay has a long history, as befitting an address in the heart of Dublin’s docklands. According to the East Wall History Group, it may have originally been operating as a hotel, before 81 and 82 were bought by a timber importer in 1861, who let number 81 to a James McDonnell who rented out rooms upstairs, while converting the ground floor to retail use. By 1880, he had closed down the grocer’s and exclusively sold wine, spirits and beer.
By 1913, it had changed hands again, now belonging to Francis Malone, who hired a far-sighted manager, John Shanley, who, mindful of the tourist trade from the growing cruise ship industry – turned the pub into an American Cocktail Bar, supposedly Dublin’s first. He served more than 60 different types of cocktails, including the brilliantly named North Wall Opener. Dublin was undergoing many upheavals at the time, from the 1913 Lockout to the repercussions of First World War and a growing rebellion to British rule. Never one to ignore a marketing opportunity, Shanley introduced a new drink, The Zenith Gunrunning Cocktail, which was seemingly discontinued at the outbreak of the War.
By the early 1920s, the cocktail experiment was over and the bar had reverted to being a typical Dublin pub. The clientele would have consisted of dockers and stevedores, merchant navy and railway worker; the backbone of the city’s economy – men who lived and worked in the North Wall area. The pub was taken over by John O’Connor in August 1931, and he changed the name to O’Connor’s – although the locals quickly christened it ‘Connor’s’, a name which would stick for the next half century.
O’ Connor was old school: the staff wore ties, collars and waistcoats and had all served a six-year apprenticeship. When he advertised for staff, he warned the candidates that their character would have to stand up to the “most strict investigation.” Food wasn’t served, but lunchtime trade could bring doorstop sandwiches (batch bread, ham and cheese), in with them to go with their midday ale.
This was a pub renowned for the quality of its pint, and so worth the journey from town for many of its regulars. Local musicians would often drop by, and as word spread through the neighbourhood, an impromptu session would break out. O Connor died in 1963 and although his family kept running the pub, it never reached the same heights again. It was taken over in 1980 by the Limerick publicans George Vallance and Pat McGrath, who attempted to restore its fortunes. Despite a facelift and a rebrand, it never really captured the locals’ imaginations and the site was sold at the height of the boom, destined to be left empty, until now.
While the building is very much a part of the North Wall’s history, it is also very much part of the future. From the two-storey green wall that’s installed in the courtyard to the water refill station, The Mayson is very much aware of the changing attitudes around sustainability.
It’s also very much attuned to how this generation of travellers want to live, whether they are here for business or for pleasure.
The Mayson features a rooftop restaurant (with wonderful views over the Liffey), a state-of-the-art gym, three of the best spots to grab a bite in Dublin, and an attention to detail guests to The Dean and The Devlin will no doubt recognise.
A few seconds walk from the 3Arena and the Luas Red Line, it also offers easy access to Dublin Bikes and the Liffey taxi service. If you prefer the walk, then a leisurely stroll along the river will get you into the centre of the city in fifteen minutes. It’s indicative of how far the Docklands has come in recent years that it’s makes total sense for The Mayson to be opening its doors. After decades of neglect, the area is booming once again, and while the clientele might be different from those who drank here in the 1920s, you can be guaranteed that there will be an equally as impressive cocktail list.