The Iveagh Play Centre
The final and most distinguished element in the great scheme was the large, two-storied Play Centre or recreational hall built between 1912 – 1915.
Designed by the Dublin architects McDonnell & Reid, the centre is architecturally superior to the Hostel and residential blocks, appropriately facing St. Patrick’s Park & Cathedral. This play centre was the successor of an earlier centre set up by Lord Iveagh in 1909 at Myra Hall, 100 Francis Street. Encouraged by the success of the earlier institution, Lord Iveagh decided to build and equip a new, larger centre at Bull Alley street, informing the Francis Street committee of his intention in April, 1911.
Lord Iveagh took a special interest in the new centre. It was built at a cost of £38,000 and in order that it should be fully utilised, Iveagh endowed it with a gift of £10,000 before vesting it in the Trust. A further £2,500 was donated out of Trust income to the working of the centre.
Besides its impressive exterior, the Centre at Bull Alley was remarkably well-appointed inside, containing classrooms, a gymnasium and assembly hall. A range of subjects would be taught there by teachers employed by the Trust and periodic free entertainment provided. The place was in effect a “people’s palace” intended for education & recreation.
Declining numbers and difficult financial circumstances eventually forced the Trust to close down the Play Centre and in 1976 the centre was purchased for £350,000 by the Dublin Vocational Educational Committee for use as a school.