John Downes in The Irish Times writes that a Co Cork villa dating from 1784 which is in a state of significant disrepair has been nominated by the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) for inclusion on a list of the world's 100 most endangered sites.
Vernon Mount in Douglas, Co Cork was proposed for the 2008 world monuments watchlist, which is compiled by the New York-based World Monuments Fund (WMF).
According to IGS deputy director Donough Cahill, it is hoped that inclusion on the list will give the building a "fresh chance" by raising its profile internationally. It could also attract funding for necessary conservation work on the building, he said.
The society said that despite Vernon Mount's beauty, significance and status as a protected structure, it stood empty and in a "desperate" state of neglect. "Window panes are smashed throughout the house, there is a large hole in the roof with slipped slates visible in many places, and the gutters and down pipes, where they exist, are largely broken and ineffective," the society said.
"It is clear that this neglect will allow the free access of rainwater, which causes considerable concern for the house and, in particular, for the decorative interiors and paintings within."
Legal notices issued by Cork County Council requiring repair works and access for local authority officials have not yet been complied with, according to the IGS. However, a spokesman for the owners of Vernon Mount, VM Restoration Ltd, which unsuccessfully sought to redevelop the property in 1997, said it had been in a state of disrepair for many years before the company's involvement with the property. He said there had been ongoing maintenance works on the house over the years, and the company was attempting to repair the roof, but had been hampered by poor weather conditions and health and safety issues.
"The company is doing a huge amount of work behind the scenes," he said. "I would hope that [ nomination for the list] would bring something positive to it. If it were to serve to focus the county council on coming up with a constructive solution, it could be of benefit." VM Restoration is owned by US-based Irish businessman Jonathan Moss. Vernon Mount was built in 1784 as a suburban villa for Sir Henry Browne Hayes, sheriff of Cork. The IGS considers it to be one of the finest neo-classical houses in Ireland. It is distinguished for its facade design, the sophistication of its planning and its decorative interiors.
"Of additional great interest in the house are fixed paintings depicting classical mythological figures by the accomplished 18th century Cork artist, Nathaniel Grogan," it said. Grogan's oil on canvas paintings are mounted on the ceiling of the ground-floor drawing room and on doors and niches in the first-floor vestibule.
The WMF is a private, non-profit organisation. Its watchlist is seen as a global "call to action" for sites in need of immediate intervention.