Eagle Lodge, Sydney Avenue, Blackrock

Eagle Lodge (formerly Beechfield & 27/29 Sydney Avenue) is a substantial residence located on Blackrock’s Sydney Avenue.

History

The house began its life with modest roots – as a dower house built in the 1820’s for Frascati House, which was ultimately demolished to make way for a shopping centre. The first record I have of Eagle House being on the market is back in 1868 when the house became available to rent with agent W. J. Wallnutt for £65. The house’s description at that time detailed that it was detached (it is now semi-detached), that it had stables and a coach house (it no longer has these) and it stood on c.1 acre (it now stands on c 0.6 acre). The house was available furnished, which means that it is almost certain that the property was lived in before this and thus was built before 1868. In 1875, auctioneer John Hazley secured a rental contract again for the home – this time unfurnished – and auctioned off the furniture. In 1883, and if not before and after, the Wilson family resided at Eagle Lodge.

The home’s name was subsequently renamed to Beechfield from Eagle Lodge and was likely renamed back to Eagle Lodge in the 1970’s.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, the Fleming family lived at Eagle Lodge. Mr Alfred G. Fleming, Mrs. Marie M. R. Fleming and their only son, Geoffrey M. M. Fleming, M.B. Lieutenant (who died in 1915 at the age of 25) definitely lived here, possibly with other children or relatives. Mr. Samuel Henry Guest Fleming (a cricket player), born 1861, died at Beechfield on the 7th of August 1942. It is likely that the family moved to County Waterford shortly thereafter.

New Beechfield – Eagle Lodge Returns

During the 1960’s, the McKinley family had taken residence in Beechfield. The family lived in the home at least until the circa 1978. Interestingly, a man named Laurance McKinley lived at ‘Beechfield, Sydney Road, Blackrock’ at least up until 2009 – this is a new bungalow built beside Eagle Lodge, presumably the McKinley family kept some land when they sold the property in 1978 with the new Eagle Lodge name. I will briefly discuss this property at the end of this page. The 1978 sale described the property as being on 1/3 acre – less than the 0.6 acre it supposedly stands on today as the present house was amalgamated with another neighbouring home. The house at this time had none of the dormer windows in the attic or other extensions that it has today, although it had been ‘meticulously maintained and skillfully modernised’. I believe the buyers at the time were the Fielding family – of which a Mrs. J. F. Fielding was a member.

Renovations

The house emerged onto the open market again at auction in 1989. It was withdrawn from auction, after 57% of properties failed to sell at auction that week. However, the house remained unsold asking £290,000 all summer before it was relaunched and sold by private treaty. Tom Day of Lisney confirmed the house was sale agreed with an asking of £270,000. The house was still practically in the same state as it was bought in 1978, I believe. A ‘professional’ family purchased the house.

A mere 3 years later, in 1992, Eagle Lodge was back for sale seeking £500,000 with Tom Day of Lisney, again, after being transformed by the owners. The kitchen was redone, house re-roofed, re-wired, re-plumbed and now had 102 power sockets. Only the finest fixtures and fittings were installed, such as a £30,000 Miele kitchen. The house now also had three dormer windows installed as presumably the attic was converted or extended. The house, listed at £500k was the most expensive ever listed in Blackrock at the time, which speaks for the quality of the house itself considering its 1/3 of an acre site was hardly special.

I believe that the purchaser was Kevin Smythe, an advisor to Irish Permanent, and his wife. The Smythes presumably did nothing to the property during their ownership, and it is in fact Mary Behan and Michael Behan who are responsible for the amazing transformation that the house has undergone in recent years. They began this transformation in 1998 with the addition of the high quality conservatory to the house, as well as widening the vehicular entrance.

The Behans must have already owned Victoria Lodge, the neighbouring house, and applied to merge the two houses together to form the sprawling mansion that we know today. The Behans didn’t just merge the two homes, but also extended the new unified house to further enlarge it. Planning permission at the time listed the new merged site as 0.74 acres. Planning permission was granted and the massive proposed project began construction.

The owners who tried to sell in 2008 admit to having sold the house in 1998 to move to Howth, and then missed it so much that they bought it back in 1999 and moved back in. Both the planning permissions from the Behans were in 1998 and 1999 so is quite possible that the Behans literally just bought it, carried out the massive renovation and then sold it back to the Smythe family. My reasoning for believing that it was the Smythe family who sold in 2008, is because they must be the same owner who had possession before it was sold briefly in 1998. Kevin Smythe’s address is mentioned in many reports in a 1997 Court case as being Eagle Lodge.

Attempt To Sell

The house as it stands today is unique. In recent years, the house was available for both sale and rent. It failed to sell in 2008 first guiding €9,000,000 – then €10,000,000, and was subsequently advertised for sale asking €3,750,000 or for rent at €11,500 per month. The house was rented to Lithuania’s second wealthiest person, with a net worth of hundreds of millions of euros, and eventually sold for €2.9 million to an Irish businessman/investor.

Eagle Lodge oozes opulence. When I first read the Irish Times’ description of the house, I was greeted with a: ‘kitchen that doubles as a ballroom’, ‘property with echoes of Versailles’, ‘the utility room (…) is decorated in French château-style’, ‘a chandelier – one of 20 throughout the house’, etc., etc. I imagined the ultimate in tackiness and a disaster of a property that would need to be torn down. Fortunately, this is not the case whatsoever. I like nearly all of the house (the kitchen, which I understand is from Alno, is a bit over the top for my tastes), and it is actually very tastefully done despite the nightmares conjured up by that initial description. An absolute fortune was spent decorating the place, with touches such as the mahogany dressing room which was taken from the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. The house also has a 24ft wine cellar, which is accessed by an elevator from the conservatory. One of the ensuite’s has a €22,000 antique bath installed, and the fabric panelling on the walls in the same bathroom cost €10,000. The entire contents of the house were for sale, seemingly, as the owners are looking for a completely different style of house this time around. Even the gardens, despite not being the biggest we have seen, are perfectly manicured and romantic.

The property sold on the 27th of February, 2012, for €2,900,000 – €362.50/sqft, considerably under its most recent €3.750m asking price and €10.000m asking price in 2008.

The New Beechfield

Beechfield is a 1,560sqft bungalow on Sydney Avenue, right next to Eagle Lodge. I imagine that Fergus McKinley retained some of Eagle Lodge’s land when he sold it in 1978. A shipping record shows that a Mr Laurance McKinley moved items from Beechfield to an address in Santa Fe, California in 2006 and again in 2009, just after the property was listed for sale. The house was listed with Lisney with an AMV of €900,000 in April 2009.

Floor plan: hall, cloakroom, reception hall, drawing room, dining room, kitchen, 2 beds (both ensuite), large garage.

This home is extremely spacious for a 2 bedroomed home, and as such I can imagine that all the room sizes are very generously sized.

Location