Glenheather, 29 Avoca Avenue, Blackrock, County Dublin
Dating from the mid-1800s, Glenheather is a superb two-storey over garden level mansion that holds the unofficial accolade of being the best house on Avoca Avenue, which is one of Blackrock’s, and indeed Dublin’s, top addresses. When first constructed, the home would have been described as ‘gentlemanly’, along with it’s attractive neighbouring houses. Back then the palatial houses would have been home to the great and good of Dublin society – heirs, entrepreneurs and corporate big-wigs – and indeed the profile of the streets’ has not changed much, save for there no longer being a half dozen servants in each house tending to the affluent owners – though housekeepers, gardens and live-in au pairs still staff the grand houses.
While Glenheather dates back to the mid-1800s, I am unable to establish a definite history for it in the 19th Century. I suspect that the house may have originally been named St. Cloud’s, which was a detached two-storey over garden level house with granite steps dating from 1856 on one acre of lands, perfectly matching Glenheather’s characteristics. The house was built for and occupied by solicitor James Weir, who died in 1898, and subsequently sold for £2,640 upon his death. The house was purchased by another solicitor, James Crabbe, who died in 1910 at the age of 68. At this time Glenheather had vibrant gardens with fresh produce growing. When they were first constructed, Avoca Avenue’s grandest homes also had farming elements, with multi-acre houses keeping lifestock on their grounds – however as Dublin progressed and gardens were developed, farming became a distant memory on Avoca Avenue and tennis courts began to spring up in lieu.
Crabbe’s death in 1910 triggered the sale of the house once again and this was the last time it would ever be referred to as St Cloud’s, being renamed by subsequent owners. Over the years the home’s name varies slightly between Glenheder, Glenheader and Glenheather, with the name first appearing circa 1928 when the house re-emerged for sale. The property was acquired by an order of nuns in the 1960s who had intended to accommodate college-going girls but failed to secure planning permission to extend the house to an appropriate size. The property was subsequently sold by the nuns in 1968 to Brian and Sheila O’Connor at a loss for the bargain price of £21,500.
Under their ownership, the home’s name remained firmly as Glenheather – with no variation – and they raised their eight children in the idyllic suburban house over the four decades they spent there.
In 2007, the O’Connors sought to downsize and the house was offered for sale by auction with an AMV of €9m. That price was exceeded at auction, with the winning bidder paying €400,000 above the guide – €9.4m, making it the sixth highest price achieved for a Dublin house in 2007, and the most expensive outside of Dublin 4. The buyer is the founder of a leading Dublin-based financial services & stockbroking company, who moved from Waltham Terrace, just around the corner. Timing was unfortunate, with the market taking a turn for the worse around the time they bought it and by the time they had renovated the house and moved in, the value of their former home had plumetted. The Waltham Terrace house was superb, albeit smaller than Glenheather at about 4,500sqft, but renovated to the highest standards. Amongst its features was a top-quality Hamptons conservatory, which would have cost around €75,000. They had originally hoped to net €3.95m from the sale of the house in 2009, but with the recession in full swing they settled for €2.51m in 2010 – one of the top 10 sales of 2010 and a bargain for the buyers given the direction of property prices since then.
Back at Glenheather, the new owners demolished a number of unattractive additions made to the property in prior decades, such as a two-storey extension to the side of the house and a pool house. Their extensions and renovations were extremely sympathetic, basically improving upon the parts of the house they were removing. The garden level is extremely well connected with the sublime garden, with a number of floor-to-ceiling doors leading out to the grounds. Both garden and hall levels are primarily devoted to living areas, including a huge kitchen and multiple exquisite reception rooms, while the top floor contains a number of bedrooms and bathrooms. In total there are six bedrooms and six bathrooms in the house. The master bedroom suite is significantly larger than the others and features a large dressing room in addition to the en-suite bathroom.
The house extends to 6,630sqft, while the coach house and pool house extend to 1,647sqft and 2,002sqft respectively, giving the property a total size of 10,279sqft. Even the coach house, which was designed for their live-in au pair, is larger than a standard suburban house. The detached pool house accommodates a substantial indoor swimming pool, sauna and hot tub and the entire length of the building was built using sliding glass doors, allowing the pool to be opened up to the gardens – good weather permitting. The rear garden also features a full-sized tennis court in addition to an expansive rectangular lawn area, which must be 200ft long, and is perfectly manicured. To the front of the house lies a large motor court and landscaped gardens and patios.
Glenheather is a true home of distinction, enjoying one of Dublin’s best addresses and every amenity imaginable. The beauty of the house is that it is extravagant yet simple. The house is essentially an enlarged version of its original self, with the new modern additions blending in seamlessly with the original structure. the owners have done a wonderful job in creating a sustainable house that can be enjoyed for generations to come, with not a fad addition in sight – no stark modern glass-box extensions, indoor lifts, or subterranean swimming pools. Glenheather is simply a fabulous family home that offers a taste of country estate living in the heart of Blackrock.