One of the most unique museums in Dublin, 14 Henrietta Street tells the story of 300 years of life in the city.
Throughout your tour, you’ll hear personal stories and testimonies from the many people, spanning centuries, who called this building home. From the 1700s, when this building housed one single, wealthy family, to the 1900s when it became a tenement house with over 100 residents.
This emotional museum eloquently weaves history with humanity, highlighting the often heartbreaking personal experiences of tenants. It’s one of Dublin’s best museums, taking visitors through the many hardships experienced by the residents of Dublin’s tenements.
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The Henrietta Street Museum is located in north Dublin, near the Hugh Lane Gallery and the Garden of Remembrance. When walking up Henrietta Street from Bolton Street, the museum is on the left side of the street.
You can reach the museum easily via public transit. The Luas red and green lines both have stops within a five-minute walk from Henrietta Street. If taking the Luas, disembark at either the Dominick Street, Broadstone, or Jervis Street stops and walk five minutes.
On foot, the museum is only a 15-minute walk from the Spire on O’Connell Street.
If driving to the museum, there is pay-and-display parking on Henrietta Street and neighboring side streets. Just note, this is not one of the safest areas in Dublin so be mindful not to leave valuables in your car.
The house was originally built in 1740. It was designed by Luke Gardiner, a prominent Irish property developer and politician, for General Lord Viscount Molsworth, head of the British military in Ireland.
The Viscount lived on the first two floors of the house with his wife and two daughters, with servants housed on the upper floor. The grand rooms on the first floor of the building were for entertaining. Visitors from Dublin’s upper class enjoyed socialising in these grand rooms, adorned with expensive decorations and fine fabrics.
In the 1800s, Dublin experienced a sharp economic downturn. As Dublin’s wealthy elite left the northside in droves, this house and many others in the neighborhood were rented to working professionals.
By the end of the century, Dublin’s population rose rapidly. After the Great Famine, people from across the country flocked to the city for jobs and food. To appease the demand for cheap housing, many of these once-regal Georgian townhouses were subdivided into tenements. The house at 14 Henrietta Street was split into 19 separate units and housed 100 tenants in poorly maintained, cramped conditions.
Dublin’s Tenements weren’t dissolved until the 1970s. By then, the buildings had fallen into disrepair, and a fatal collapse of one of the buildings brought awareness to how dire the situation was.
The Irish government built housing communities on the city’s outskirts, effectively creating suburbs where the tenement residents were moved. Thus ends the story of these once grand Georgian homes turned slums. The tenants moved out, and the buildings were left to decay further.
Your tour of the house starts with a general overview of Dublin’s history and an introduction to Georgian Dublin. You’ll then be escorted into a room that has been renovated to its previous Georgian-era glory (circa 1740).
Notice the opulent features, such as intricate paintwork and detailed motifs along the doorways. These details indicate the wealth and status of the first families who lived here: Upper-class Anglo-Irish families.
This first room, although devoid of furniture, serves as an important contrast to what’s to come: the cramped and subpar conditions of the tenement period. As you move through the house, you’ll see evidence of these difficult times.
By the 1900s, this single-family home was subdivided into 19 units and housed 100 people. Whole families, sometimes with as many as ten children, lived in single rooms. The museum showcases these family units from different periods in the tenement era, highlighting the personal stories of the impoverished.
What truly sets the Henrietta Street Museum apart is the focus on real, human stories. While you’ll learn some facts and dates, the core of the museum experience is hearing about the people who lived in these rooms and the hardships they faced. The cramped and filthy conditions, along with poverty and lack of food, meant many children died young from preventable childhood diseases. These heartwrenching stories are ingrained in the walls around you, and expertly told by empathetic tour guides who often have similar stories in their own personal family history.
Yet despite the hardships of tenement life, there was also a deep sense of community. Neighbors looked out for each other, watching each others’ children and stepping in when times were hard. The tight quarters meant built-in playgroups for children, who ran in droves around the streets.
Your visit ends in a 1970s apartment. Everything in this room was donated by the descendants of the former resident and is original to the home. After 300 years of inhabitance, this apartment represents the last tenants here at 14 Henrietta Street.
The family here, along with neighbors and friends, were moved to the new housing developments on the outskirts of the city. While this move was hailed as a success, offering safe living environments with more space for families, it had unintended negative consequences. Moved to a variety of neighborhoods, people lost their tight-knit communities. Friends were separated, and they could no longer depend on neighbors to watch their children or step in when someone was ill. As hard as tenement life was, this strong community was a saving grace for many, particularly the women, who leaned on each other for strength and support. With the end of the tenements came the end of lifelong friends and a more communal way of life.
Admission to the museum is by guided tour only. Tours last approximately 75 minutes.
You can book online through their website or by calling +353 1524 0383. Due to small rooms and tight spaces, tour capacity is limited. I recommend booking in advance so you don’t miss out on the chance to visit.
The house is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tours run hourly, leaving on the hour.
The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Tours cost €10 for adults, and €8 for seniors (over 60) and students.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Georgian Dublin, consider taking the Georgian Dublin walking tour offered by the museum. This walk through the neighborhood is an excellent supplement to your museum visit. The walking tour costs €10, but if you book the house tour and walking tour together you save 10%.
Written by Tamar Marder, Author of World by Weekend Blog
Tamar Marder is a family travel blogger who currently lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband, two kids, and their dog. When not traveling, you can find her buried in a good book. You can follow Tamar’s travels on her blog, World by Weekend.