Services » Docklands

Early Twentieth Century

The establishment of the Ford Tractor Works (20) at the Marina in 1919 on the site of the former Cork Park Racecourse was largely a philanthropic gesture by the founder of the Ford Empire, Henry Ford, given the Ford family connections with both Fair Lane in Cork City and Ballinascarthy in Co. Cork. It was made possible following an Act of Parliament to redevelop the Cork Racecourse lands where under Henry Ford acquired 130 acres of land with a river frontage of 1,700 feet and developed a plant would give employment to 7,000 workers at its height.

Figure 1: Ordnance Survey Map of 1932 showing the Ford Factory to the north of City Park

Ordnance Survey Map of 1932 showing the Ford Factory

  Source: Ordnance Survey of Ireland (2009c)

Although it may have been designed by Ford's own in house engineers, it is clearly based on the work of Ford's Michigan architects Albert Kahn Associates who were at this time building what is regarded as the first single storey assembly line plant in the world – a boat production facility at Ford's River Rouge site in Michigan (Ruane, 2008).

Figure 2: Historical Image of Ford Factory

Historical Image of Ford Factory

Source: Online Image

Wharves were built on the City Park side of the River Lee to accommodate the new tractor factory, followed by an enormous machine shop and a mobile crane to facilitate the production of pig-iron from the factory’s furnace (now operating as the E.S.B. Marina generating plant).[1] The Ford Motor Works remained one of the largest employers in the Cork region up until its closure in the early 1980s. Extensive remains of the original tractor factory, warehouses and custom-built wharfage are still in evidence on site, most of which are now used as storage space and light industrial workshops. Much of the complex was included in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s National Inventory of Architectural Heritage for Cork City with the former tractor building now listed on the City Council’s Record of Protected Structures.

One of the other main recreational areas in the city aside from the Marina was developed in the early twentieth century. In 1901, the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Edward Fitzgerald, proposed that Cork City should stage an international industrial exhibition. The site chosen  for the Cork International Exhibition was an area of parkland between the Cork County Cricket Grounds and Wellington Bridge, now renamed Thomas Davis Bridge. The exhibition, which opened on the first of May 1902, attracted exhibitors from across the globe, displaying their industrial, agricultural and artistic wares and surpassed all expectations. After it officially closed the grounds were donated to Cork Corporation as a recreational park for the citizens of Cork and named Fitzgerald's Park (21) (Burke, 2007e). A modern extension was added to the former Mansion House in 2005, which now houses the Cork Public Museum.

Figure 3: Fitzgerald's Park

Fitzgerald's Park

Some of the original Exhibition pavilion buildings were relocated to other sites in the city including the present day Shandon Boat Club (22) on the Marina.

Figure 4: Shandon Boat Club

Shandon Boat Club

During the War of Independence, Cork was one of the main centres of resistance to British rule. Following an I.R.A. attack on an auxillary party on the north side of the City the British forces (Black and Tans) set fire to several buildings in the city during the night of 11 December 1920. Several buildings were completely destroyed including City Hall, the Carnegie Library (which resulted in huge losses of civic records) and shops such as Cash and Co., (now Brown Thomas), Roche’s Stores (now Debenhams) and the Munster Arcade (now Penneys) on St. Patrick’s Street.

The foundation stone of Cork's City Hall (23) was laid by Eamon de Valera in July 1932 as a replacement for the original building, which was destroyed during the Burning of Cork in 1920. It was designed by Jones and Kelly in the style of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, which in itself is an interpretation of James Gandon's Custom House. The present day City Hall was officially opened in 1936 and is faced with dressed limestone from local quarries with a neo-classical façade addressing the south channel of the River Lee. 

Figure 5: City Hall

City Hall

Some of the strongest and most visible elements of the city docks are the various grain silos and milling plants, which were developed largely during the twentieth century along the southern waterfront.

Figure 6: Historical Photograph of Kennedy Quay

Historical Photograph of Kennedy Quay

Source: Cork Camera Club, 2008.

Figure 7 View of Silos, South Docks, 2007

View of Silos, South Docks, 2007

The terminus building sited on Victoria Road and later incorporated into the Marina Mills complex was demolished in the 1930s while the waterfront facing mills were demolished in 1986. The surviving elements of the complex are made up of the R. and H. Hall grain silos (15) These silos were constructed circa 1945 of mass concrete and function as grain stores to this day. The complex is listed in the Government's National Inventory of Architectural Heritage where it is stated: “This building has a visual significance beyond its intrinsic utilitarian design as a result of its visibility from many parts of the city. It serves, through its height and scale, to define the remaining commercial docks area of the city from some distance” (Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2007d).

Figure 8: R. & H. Hall, Kennedy Quay

R. & H. Hall, Kennedy Quay

Construction on the earliest elements of the Art Deco silo complex (24), which is located further east along the South Jetties, took place circa 1935-1938. Elements of architectural interest included the staircase and fenestration of the earlier silo and the concrete screen walls to the north and south with glass block vertical glazing of the later building, which was constructed between 1947-1953. The ‘Miag’ silo was damaged by a fire in September 2006 and demolished in summer 2008 following the submission of a report on its structural safety to the City Council. Elements of the structure were salvaged for possible re-use.

Figure 9: Fire Damaged Miag/Art Deco Silos

Fire Damaged Miag/Art Deco Silos

The low rise attractive red-bricked Odlum’s Mill (25) forms a distinctive feature amongst the taller silo buildings sited along Kennedy Quay. The original grain store, the lower half of the building, was built some time in the late 19th/early 20th century. In 1934 the top portion was added when R. & H. Hall, J. W. Green & Co. and Suttons installed a flourmill in the building. In the 1934 extension, care was taken to provide some continuity from the original design to the new. This continuity can be seen in the vertical emphasis created by the lower windows and continued to the upper wall windows where the brick piers are aligned with the lower piers. The elevation is arranged symmetrically around the middle where an Art Deco limestone moulding symbolically joins the two parts of the building (Harrington and Miller, 2000). The City Council in the South Docks Local Area Plan 2008 zoned this site as for the purposes of a flagship cultural facility.

Figure 10: Odlum’s Mills

Odlum’s Mills

One of the few residential areas lying within the Docks area was that surrounding Albert Road (32). In the late nineteenth century thousands of Lithuanian Jews fled from persecution in their own country. 'On arrival in Cork they gravitated to a part of the City near Albert Road that would later become known colloquially as 'Jewtown.' (Crowley, J.S., Devoy, R.J.N., Linehan, D. and O' Flanagan, P. eds., 2005 p.252). The area consists of a collection of six terraces developed as artisan dwellings and comprising a total of 99 two-bay single-storey-with-attic houses called Hibernian Buildings. The area was said to resemble a Lithuanian village in every sense with customs maintained and a close-knit society developing. By 1901 fifty-five families had settled in the area. Gradually the community grew in social standing from early peddling through to professional classes who were educated within the local Catholic and Protestant schools. As the community increased in affluence many moved to the City's suburbs or moved to amalgamate with the stronger Dublin Jewish population or emigrated from the country. By 1939 only eleven families remained in 'Jewtown' (Crowley, J.S., Devoy, R.J.N., Linehan, D. and O' Flanagan, P. eds., 2005 p.254).  Lasting impacts on the city were made through the election of Gerald Goldberg in 1977 as the City's Lord Mayor, the presence of the synagogue on South Terrace and the recent renaming of a public park close to Albert Road as Shalom Park in memory of the community who once resided there.

Figure 11: Hibernian Buildings

 Hibernian Buildings

[1] After the end of the First World War the demand for tractors fell sharply. The future of the plant was assured however by its transformation into an assembly plant for Ford ‘Model T’ cars destined for the Irish market, the production of which ended in 1927. During the Second World War car production at the factory ceased as vital components became impossible to obtain and workers at the factory produced tools for general use and equipment for the Irish Army.  In 1946 the first post-war car built at the Cork factory was produced and the company resumed its domination of the Irish car market.  Major extensions to the factory were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  However, the removal of tariff barriers after Ireland entered the E.U. caused major difficulties for the company as it struggled to compete with cheaper cars imported from Europe.