It is hard to believe that less than 400 years ago O’Connell Street and this part of Dublin was part of Dublin Bay and was covered by sea-water during high tide. In the late 1600s reclamation on a large scale was begun and O’Connell Street itself was laid down. It began as a dingy, narrow street called Drogheda Street. This name is interesting in itself. It was named after its developer, Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda. In a bid for immortality he named five of the local streets after himself; Drogheda Street, Earl Street, Henry Street, Moore Street and even Of Lane.
In the 18th century the upper part of Drogheda Street was widened into an elegant promenading mall and was lined on both sides by Georgian mansions. It was named Gardiner’s Mall after its latest developer. Then once the new bridge over the River Liffey at the end of the old Drogheda Street was opened in 1792 the whole street was widened to its present width. By now it had been renamed Sackville Street in honour of Lionel Sackville, a former Lord Lieutenant, the English government’s chief representative in Ireland. The opening of this bridge also heralded a major shift in the makeup of the street. What was originally a residential street quickly changed into a commercial street of shops, department stores and hotels.