The original Butt Bridge graced the Dublin cityscape for a mere 51 years, opening in 1879 when, briefly, the age of steam and sail were one and an independent Ireland was yet to be gained. ‘A really beautiful bridge’ according to the press at the time, it had a cast iron, central swivel section with masonry spans to the river banks. Yet, ironically, it was the design of the bridge which ensured its demise. The narrowness of the carriageway and right angled approaches to the bridge hampered the flow of traffic on the ever busier city streets. The decision was taken in 1925 to build a new bridge.
Today’s Butt Bridge opened on the same site, linking Tara Street on the south side and Beresford Place to the north, in 1932. Construction began in 1930, in the lull after the War of Independence and the Civil War and when the coffers of the newly independent state, were straining mightily. The reconstruction of architectural treasures such as the Customs House and the Four Courts were a priority. The chief engineer of the Port and Docks Board, Joseph Mallagh, was handed the brief and with Pierce Purcell, consultant, the Liffey’s first reinforced concrete bridge was designed. The central span of just over 34 metres aligns neatly with the Loopline piers downstream for ease of river navigation. The approach spans are 12.2 metres each and the parapets are of Ballyknocken granite. The bridge crosses the Liffey at a slight skew.
A sense of urgency surrounded the completion of the bridge - a much needed influx of visitors was expected for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Despite delays, including that of six weeks due to a construction mishap, completion was ahead of time, earning the contractor, Gray’s Ferro Concrete a bonus. The cost of the structure was £53,740. Intriguingly, Butt Bridge houses a series of internal tunnels, some up to 2 metres in height and used for the inspection of the mains services carried across the bridge.
For 99 years Butt Bridge held the honour of being the most easterly road bridge across the Liffey until it was usurped by the equally practical Talbot Memorial Bridge.