Nostalgia: A look back at one of Cork's best loved streets

Nostalgia: A look back at one of Cork's best loved streets

MacCurtain Street, with the Metropole Hotel on the left, 1973.

EARLIER this week, Cork City Councillors approved Part 8 planning for the MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme.

The plans, which also incorporate some of the surrounding area, aim to transform the busy street for the first time in over 50 years, making it more suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

Speaking at Monday night's council meeting, Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said he had done some research looking back into the early past of the street.

Cades mineral water manufacturers at MacCurtain Street, Cork circa 1910 (later location of Thompson's Bakery)
Cades mineral water manufacturers at MacCurtain Street, Cork circa 1910 (later location of Thompson's Bakery)

"The western section of the street is marked as a dirt track in a 1602 map – being developed more by the Huguenot family Lavitt one hundred years later - in the early eighteenth century. 

"The Lavitt’s building block is still there, albeit it has been partially rebuilt in the last 200 years.

"A walk through the street shows the vision, commitment and strategy that various merchants had on the street in the past two hundred years – the rich ornate buildings tell their own story – from the Victoria Buildings to The Metropole Hotel, from the former Thompsons Bakery to the Coliseum, from Trinity Presbyterian Church to the Everyman Palace to Dan Lowrey's, shows a financial investment into the street over many years. 

Harp school at MacCurtain Street. On the right is Shiela MacCurtain, daughter of Tomás MacCurtain, 1953.
Harp school at MacCurtain Street. On the right is Shiela MacCurtain, daughter of Tomás MacCurtain, 1953.

"The decision to change the street’s name from Westminster MP Robert King of Mitchelstown Castle to Irish Republican Tomás MacCurtain street in April 1920 reflects the dedication to promoting Cork’s Republican and modern past.

"And interesting, despite such a rich history and a strong sense of place, the fabric of the street has always being put on the backburner with the street being always seen as just as a 'road out of town'," Mr McCarthy continued. 

Delving through our photo archives, MacCurtain Street's rich history is plain to see.

One photo shows the interior of the former Hadji Bey sweet shop on the street.

A November 1932 photo of the interior of the famous Hadji Bey sweet shop. 
A November 1932 photo of the interior of the famous Hadji Bey sweet shop. 

Haratun Batmazian came to Cork with his wife Esther for the Great Exhibition in 1902 and stayed. 

Soon, the couple had opened a successful shop on MacCurtain Street, signposted 'Hadji Bey et Cie' (Hadji Bey & Co).

The business became an immense success, exporting its products to high-end department stores such as Harrods of London and Bloomingdale's, and even supplying Buckingham Palace. 

Thompsons Bakery, MacCurtain Street, 1953.
Thompsons Bakery, MacCurtain Street, 1953.

Other former businesses on the street included Scott & Co Ironmongers, Central Fruit Stores, Baltimore Stores, Jack Healy Cycles and Crowley's Music Centre, to name but a few.

The old Thompsons Bakery on MacCurtain Street, situated where the restaurant Glass Curtain is now, was a stalwart culinary institution established in 1826 and in its heyday produced a mile of its trademark swiss roll every day (in the building’s dedicated swiss roll factory) for the people of Munster.

Further along, at the junction of MacCurtain Street and Brian Boru Street, was the former Coliseum cinema, now Leisureplex, which had screenings from 1913 to 1964.

View of the old Coliseum cinema, MacCurtain Street, 1953.
View of the old Coliseum cinema, MacCurtain Street, 1953.

Two landmark spots on MacCurtain Street, which both opened in 1897 and are still in operation today, are The Metropole Hotel and The Everyman. 

Speaking at Monday night’s council meeting Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Forde spoke about the love Cork people have for the street and said the regeneration of MacCurtain Street and its environs will be “of huge benefit and enhance the city so much”.

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