Market House

By way of town improvements, the proprietor, the Second Viscount De Vesci, erected the Market House in 1836 adjacent to the street and backed by a crescent of two storey houses. Subsequently, a large memorial to the Second Viscount was erected adjacent to the Market House consisting of a squat obelisk set on a robust, rusticated base. The memorial was designed by J.S. Butler in 1860.

The building has been much altered. When originally built, the Market House was a five bay double height structure with the end bays slightly projecting, which had square headed doorcases with bracketed and blocked entablatures.

The three central bays were arcaded and had iron double gates. The roof was hipped and had a tall octagonal cupola. The facade was rough dashed, and had limestone dressings including rusticated piers, archivolts and a large date stone. In addition, at the rear there were two projecting quadrant single storey structures for use as butcher's stalls. In 1906 the building was reconstructed and enlarged as a memorial to the Fourth Viscount De Vesci. It was increased in height, in depth by eighteen feet, the upper storey fully developed and a belvedere replaced the copula.

The cut stonework from the original rear facade was reused. An initial study of the De Vesci estate papers has not revealed the name of the architect of the original design nor of the alterations in the 1900s. These alterations were possibly to the design of A. O'M. Lovell of Waterford who undertook the rebuilding of the opposite side of Market Square, or W.I. Chambers of Dublin, who designed a new agent's house, both about this period and for the De Vesci estate.

In 1950 the ownership of the building passed to the County Council when further alterations took place. The ground floor was converted into a fire station, the arcades enclosed and the upper floor developed as a branch library when some of the windows were foreshortened.

When the firestation wasmoved to a different location in Abbeyleix, Laois County Council commenced renovations on the Market House in 2006 to turn the building into a modern three-floored library. An art gallery space was also incorporated into the design. The Market House was officially re-opened as a library and art galleryin June 2008.

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