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Cork Independent

Around the County

Cork citys business hub

Thursday, 8th September, 2011 8:00am

Situated in the heart of Cork City, the South Mall is the business and financial centre of Cork. The street is connected to the Grand Parade and both were formed by the covering-over of channels of the River Lee in the late eighteenth century.The South Mall is full of history and it contains many interesting buildings. On either side of the street, many of the buildings have steps leading from what was once an open flowing river channel. Boats would travel through this channel and the boat houses were located below the buildings at street level.Interestingly, there are many buildings on the South Mall that were built with Dutch brick which arrived in Cork as ballast on board ships that were trading with Holland. Ships ballast consists of materials used to weigh a ship down.At the end of the South Mall is the former Provincial Bank which is a highly ornate Corinthian structure. The Cork Savings Bank, which was designed by the Kearne Brothers and Sir Thomas Deane who was a famous Cork architect as well as serving as Lord Mayor of the city three times,  lies opposite.  Also visible from the lower end of the South Mall is the City Hall which was opened by President Eamonn deValera in 1936. Funds for the City Hall were provided by the British Government in reparation for the burning of the original City Hall by English Crown Forces in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.  Financial districtThe South Mall is most noted for housing the majority of the city's banks, insurance companies and estate agencies, hence why it has earned the nickname of the financial district of Cork. Several of the banks on the South Mall derive from the nineteenth century, such as Allied Irish Banks, which was once an exchange.Another historic building on the South Mall is the Imperial Hotel which is one of Cork's most exclusive addresses. The historic architecture of the hotel is wonderful and it has been serving the people of Cork since 1813. The hotel was opened when the Cork Committee of Merchants commissioned Sir Thomas Deane to design and build the Commercial Rooms. In 1816 the merchants requested that Deane extend the original building along Pembroke Street to serve as a hotel and coach-yard.The original purpose of the hotel was as a meeting point for merchants to discuss business. The hotel has played host to a number of renowned figures including Father Mathew, the temperance priest, writers such as Sir Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens and the composer Liszt.The Hotel's most famous former resident is probably that of the Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins. Collins made the hotel his headquarters and he spent his last night in the hotel in room 115 before his untimely death on 22 August, 1922.The South Mall is not known for its restaurant or shops but one notable restaurant is Jacobs on the Mall which serves locally sourced, modern European food.A cheery addition to the South Mall is the fabulous Best of Buds Store, a highly decorative flower shop with a unique selection of flowers which are mostly imported from Europe's famous flower auctions as well as from local suppliers.  Located just off the South Mall is the Father Mathew Hall which hosts the annual Feis Maitiu. The Feis was first established in 1927 by Father Micheál O'Shea who saw the need for a platform to help and encourage people interested in the performing arts. Today there are approximately 15000 performers from under six to over 60.The South Mall is well worth a visit for its fascinating history alone. The beautiful architecture is a credit to the city that surrounds it and it comes highly recommended to anyone who is looking to do something other than shop in the city.

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