On 30 June, 1962, the Theatre Royal on Hawkins Street in Dublin closed its doors for the last time marking the end of an era in the entertainment world in Dublin, writes MAURA KEANE
Prior to 1821 when the first Theatre Royal was opened in Hawkins Street, its site had been occupied by the Royal Dublin Society, but on the 18th of January of that year, it was opened by a Mr. Harris who was also associated with the Theatre Royal in London. This great theatrical event was to become the fore-runner of two consecutive play houses of that name.
The original RDS building was extensively adapted to the needs of a modern music hall by Samuel Beazley, an eminent English architect, and, according to a print at the time, an ornate facade and ionic loggia was prposed for the building, but later abandoned.
It was a big undertaking and the auditorium, which was curved like a horse-shoe, seated more than two thousand people. Unfortunately, in 1880 when a faulty gas jet was being lit in the vice regal box before a performance, a great fire exploded, and the theatre was completely destroyed.
Michael Gunn, who nine years earlier had built the Gaiety Theatre and was the owner of the ill-fated Theatre Royal, secured the services of another London architect, C. J. Phipps, to replace the lost theatre with a new design.
November 1886 the second Theatre Royal was completed, and opened amid much fanfare under the name of the Leinster Hall, but eleven years later it closed and became the property of a syndicate.
These new owners were determined to make a success of their acquisition and had the building re-modelled by another architect, Frank Matcham. Billed as the New Theatre Royal and patronised by many great artists of the 20th century, such as Paderewsky, Kreisler, Melba and many more, it fared no better than its predecessor and was torn down forty years later.