The first O’Connell Bridge (then called Carlisle Bridge) was completed in 1795 to the designs of James Gandon, the famous architect who also designed one of Dublin’s most magnificent Georgian buildings, the Custom House, whose green copper dome you can see in the far distance. This first bridge was found to be too steep and narrow for the increased traffic of the 1870s so a new bridge was commissioned. Copying Gandon’s original architectural details the replacement was flat and as wide as O’Connell Street. The bridge is fairly unique in that its width is slightly greater than its length. Re-named in honour of Daniel O’Connell, of whom more in a couple of minutes, the new bridge was opened in 1880.
The head sculptured above the middle arch represents Anna Livia, the female embodiment of the River Liffey. All the rivers of Ireland are symbolised by a human representation and except for the Liffey all are male.