In 100 Buildings of 20th Century Ireland, architectural historian Emma Gilleece explores Irish architecture of note. This week: a slice of the American dream in the suburbs of Limerick City...

The Irish Estates (completed in 1953) in Corbally is a housing scheme which lies to the north east of Limerick city centre. In February 1947, Irish Life submitted their offer to purchase the Lanahrone House site and as the first project for their subsidiary company Irish Estates Ltd.

This commercial investment was mainly based on representations received from the Department of Industry & Commerce, Aer Lingus and the various transatlantic airlines who had bases at Shannon Airport. This was to appeal as family accommodation to the employees of airlines such as American overseas airlines Pan Am, Sabena and Tiger, who all lived in the Irish Estates during that period. Eventually all of the previously rented houses were sold to tenants and others.

The organisational structure of Irish Estates Ltd was quite unique for its time in Ireland. The concept involved the combination of builder and all technical consultants, architects, engineers, in a single organisation.

It was envisaged that Irish Estates could construct investment properties for the Irish Life investment portfolio as well as offering a cost-effective 'one stop shop', to companies seeking to have built structures such as housing, cinemas or factories.

The scheme was designed by the in-house architect for Irish Life, W.J Convery, who was directed to produce an American-style housing estate to appeal to its original tenants. Convery would later design the Mespil Estate flats in Dublin.

The estate comprises of 140 flat-roofed, semi-detached houses with simple concrete canopied entrance and originally would have had screwed metal casement windows, along with garden to front and rear. The avenues of the estate are named Plassey, Lanahrone Abbey, Shannon and Rhebogue. Each house is furnished with a driveway to park their car and a garage. The beauty of these homes is their geometric simplicity. What makes this estate even more unusual for Limerick is the sense of space created not only by the generously large roads, but from the lack of boundary walls.

According to one resident who moved into the estate in the 1960s, there was a portacabin in the fork in the road near the entrance which housed an estate manager who took care of the maintenance - one of the perks of renting a property in the Irish Estates.

The original layout of the houses generally consisted of the ground floor with hall, cloakroom, drawing room, dining room, kitchen and ‘maid’s room’. The kitchen included the ‘mod cons’ of the day with bakelite wall switches, the latest solid fuel cooker which heated the water supply and a butler’s pantry. Upstairs there were 3-4 bedrooms each with a fireplace and built-in wardrobes and a bathroom. The luxury of an indoor bathroom in the forties is not to be underestimated.

One estate that encapsulates the birth of Irish commercial aviation, car-dependancy in surburabn planning and the American dream in Ireland.