Portarlington’s worst example of a derelict building is now almost unrecognisable thanks to a facelift by the local community.
Arlington House stands on the corner of French Church Street and Foxcroft Street, and although it still is a shell of a building with no roof, its exterior has been revitalised inspired by from RTE’s Dirty Old Towns series.
The orginal stonework is now revealed at the front of the building, with the addition of a bright red door, clock and faux windows, while the sides have received a fresh coat of lime render. New fencing and grass have replaced ugly hoarding to the rear.
Last week the volunteers and expert plasterers, with project leader Matt Dunne, toasted the result of their efforts with champagne.
“It’s actually lifted the spirit of the town. It’s getting rave reviews,” said Mr Dunne.
However he believes that eventually the listed building may still be knocked.
“It is an imposing building on a strategic corner that should have a roundabout so the question remains should it be knocked to make way for the ever increasing traffic flow or should it be refurbished and handed over to the town. It is a huge traffic hazard. There is an outcry for traffic lights there,” he said.
The Hugenot building has had mixed fortunes. It was a renowned boys boarding school for the best part of a century, and then housed suitcase manufacturers Travel Goods Limited for nearly 50 years.
Part of it and the buildin was demolished to accommodate the new inner relief road, supermarket and housing estate behind it. Since then it has lost its roof and the current owner, engineer Gerry Foley from Mullingar, has been fined by Laois County Council for leaving it derelict, despite been given planning permission to restore it.
The renovation was a result of many hands coming together, including the owner who donated €2,000 towards it. Many local companies gave equipment and materials to the project, while craftspeople and hard working volunteers all gave freely of their time.
Matt Dunne was delighted to come on board the Dirty Old Towns committee.
“I saw it as an opportunity not to be missed that the town could be portrayed in a positive light, with the community working to try and eliminate the eyesores around the town. The cynics say we are wasting our time but we believe that the end result will justify all the hard work. President Obama’s catchphrase was “Is feidir linn … we can do it”, the Portarlington Dirty Old Town Committee have their own catchphrase “Rinnemid é … we did it”, he said.
For more details on the project see www.leinsterexpress.ie