Founded in 1817 by Thomas Gresham, the Gresham Hotel occupied three Georgian houses on the east side of Upper Sackville Street, later O’Connell Street, Dublin. Much altered and expanded over the years, the hotel was destroyed in the fighting of early July 1922 which heralded the start of the Civil War. Funds secured under the Government compensation scheme enabled the Gresham Hotel Company to rebuild. On 29 October 1926 a contract was signed with builders McLaughlin & Harvey for a new 250 bedroom hotel to be built to designs by architects Robert Atkinson and A.F.B. Anderson. This photograph, taken in the first half of 1927, shows construction workers labouring on the reinforced concrete roof of the new hotel. Behind them is a view across the city from the Rotunda to the Kings Inns, with the roof of St Saviour’s on Dominick Street a notable feature. ‘Ferro-concrete’, as it was then called, had been first used extensively in Ireland during the rebuilding of Lower O’Connell Street after 1916. It was preferred for its fire resistant qualities, its availability, its speed in use, and its lower cost, and was used extensively again to rebuild Upper O’Connell Street in the second half of the 1920s.
Here McLaughlin & Harvey’s ‘concrete squad’ are tamping a section of freshly poured concrete. Their attire – jackets, waistcoats, shirts and flat caps – was very typical of building labourers of the time. Speaking at the opening ceremony for the newly completed hotel on 16 April 1927, Robert Atkinson noted that he had found ‘Dublin tradesmen were really first-rate and he had nothing to complain about. He had not struck such good workmanship for many years as that which was put into the building of that hotel’.