'Casino' is the Italian word for 'small house'. It was built around 1770 as a summerhouse for the 1st Earl of Charlemont on his large country estate in Marino.
This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.
You might have heard that there is a casino in Marino but this one is not of the gambling kind…and one could easily miss it because it is not on a main road but when you travel on the Malahide Road northwards and look across the playing fields on the left just after the junction with Griffith Avenue, you can glimpse a white building on higher ground at the far end which looks like an ancient Roman temple. This is the Casino in Marino. It is regarded as one of the finest eighteenth-century buildings not only in Dublin but also in Europe.
‘Casino’ is the Italian word for ‘small house’ and the Casino looks very small from the outside, but when you go inside, you can see that it is actually quite large. It has sixteen rooms on three floors. It was built as a summerhouse for the 1st Earl of Charlemont on his large country estate in Marino, a place where he could go if he wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It was designed by Sir William Chambers, the architect to the King of England. Sir William was a friend of Lord Charlemont and he also designed his townhouse on Parnell Square, which is now the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art. However, Sir William was actually never in Ireland – he just sent the plans and let other people supervise the building.
The Casino was built around 1770 in a style called Neo-Classicism. It was the most modern style at the time and it tried to make buildings look like old Roman or sixteenth-century Italian buildings. This is why the Casino has tall columns and is completely symmetrical, which means that all sides are exactly the same. It has lions guarding each corner, steps leading up to the doors and decorated containers shaped like a vase – these are called urns – on the roof. It even has central heating like an old Roman villa. All you had to do was light the fireplaces and the whole building was heated.
But all is not as it seems and there are some tricks in the building. The outer columns contain downpipes from the gutter for carrying rainwater from the roof and the urns hide the chimneys from the fireplaces inside. The whole building is full of ideas and surprises.
In 1881 Lord Charlemont’s estate was sold and nobody looked after the Casino for many years. It took ten years to restore it and it reopened in 1984. Now you can visit it again as it is all that is left of Lord Charlemont’s estate.