A Brief History of Portobello

For only being a small suburb in Dublin, Portobello has a very long and rich history; it has played an important role in various political events, as well as been the home to many well-known Irish artists, politicians, and writers. While the area has been around since the 17th century, it was not named until the 18th century. On the map, you can see where Portobello is located on the southside of Dublin.

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Visiting an Ancient Dublin Parish

Within every community in Dublin, there seems to be at least one beautiful church, and this was again confirmed as we walked through Portobello. Located on Harrington Street, there is St. Kevin’s Church, which is one of Dublin’s finest gothic-revival buildings. It’s a beautiful structure inside and out, as you can see from the photographs. The high arches and windows are a commanding presence amidst the relatively stout one and two-story homes of residential Portobello, and we were immediately drawn in to investigate. What we found inside was stunning: from the stained glass to the ornate details of the painted interior, we were moved to silence as we walked between the pews looking upward. A middle-aged woman whispered prayers to herself as she made the rounds of painted saints on the walls, crossing herself and dipping her head for each one. It was not until after our visit that we learned more of the long history of St. Kevin’s:

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Bretzel Bakery, Portobello

One of our first stops exploring Portobello was the renowned Bretzel Bakery. Famous for their freshly baked in-house goods, the Bretzel attracts locals and visitors alike to Portobello. Although the bakery is tucked away from the main road on Lennox Street, it’s difficult to miss with the brightly painted storefront and emblazoned “Est. 1870” across the side of the building. And to make it even easier, the unmistakable smell of fresh bread from the oven can be picked up from a block away. The interior was beautifully modernized and made for an airy but cozy atmosphere where one could spend hours reading or working over coffee and one of their hand-made pastries. We soon settled in to a wonderful yet simple lunch with coffee as we read up on the long and rich history of the Bretzel that they proudly record in the front pocket of the table menu.

Click here for a bit of history on the Jewish community in Portobello

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Project Proposal

Project Members: Maddy Saboe and Marissa Bunting

Area of Study: History and Culture in Suburban Dublin

Project Title and Justification: We would like to call our project “Experiencing Irish Suburbia through Portobello, Dublin.”  

So far, our study-abroad program has focused predominantly on the heart and inner city of Dublin through its history, architecture, social issues. This is why we would like to use our independent research project to explore beyond the city center and into its surrounding areas. More specifically, we are interested in the “Suburbia” of Dublin because as we have learned from our modules and from interacting with locals, most people who work in the city commute from outside neighborhoods. Through researching these areas we discovered Portobello, which is an area of Dublin with a rich historical background and many small local businesses.  Our project will hone in on studying this neighborhood and how its history has led to its current status as a vibrant place to live.

Methodologies: First, we would like to perform a literature review to learn about the neighborhood’s background and how it has developed since the 17th century. This information will allow us to historicize and contextualize our observations in field research. We hope to then conduct interviews with locals and business owners of Portabello to gain personal insight into life in neighborhood, and contextualize them in a study of broader development and history of Portobello.

Creative Aspect: We want to be able to communicate Portabello’s vibrancy in real time as we research and experience the area through social media by including photos, videos, and text posts. To do this, we plan on developing a blog (using WordPress) to trace our research process and learning of Portobello, where each week we will compose a long-form post about a new focal topic such as Portobello’s architectural development or interviews with locals. However, we also plan to create additional, smaller posts containing photos or interesting observations between main posts.

Initial Research Question: As like any case study, our initial question is rather broad. We hope to narrow our focus and hone the research as we discover more about Portobello. Therefore, our initial research question is as follows: How is Portobello’s long history reflected in its daily life and culture today?