Altamont House is formally handed over to public ownership at special ceremony last Friday
THE JEWEL in Carlow’s tourism crown just added a further gem this week when Altamont House was formally handed over to the state.
Junior minister Brian Hayes accepted the keys of the 18th century house on behalf of the state last Friday, with plans to open Altamont House to the public in the future.
Altamont House, which was built around 1730 and is surrounded by the beautiful Altamont Gardens, is often described as “the jewel in the crown” of tourism in the county. It attracts more than 52,000 visitors annually. When Corona North, its last owner, died in 1999, she very generously bequeathed the house and gardens to the state.
Over the past 14 years, legal complexities have delayed the formal handing over of the house to the OPW. However, with these issues now resolved, the state can now move ahead with its ambitious plans for Altamont House.
“I think this is a great day, not only for the people of Carlow but for the whole country – the day when we can ensure that this gem is taken into state care, which means it will never be lost to the community,” said deputy Pat Deering.
Among those who attended the formal handing over of the keys to minister Hayes were: Robin Harvey, executor of Corona’s estate; John Watson, a distant cousin of Corona; Dr Eugene Keane, historical property division of the OPW; county manager Tom Barry; deputy Pat Deering; CEO of Carlow Tourism, Eileen O’Rourke; local councillors and council staff.
Master of ceremonies for the proceedings was cllr John Murphy, with speeches from John Watson, deputy Pat Deering, Tom Barry, Dr Eugene Keane, Robin Harvey and minister Hayes.
Mr Harvey recalled the February morning in 1999 when Corona passed away, while overlooking her beloved gardens. Among her final words were: “Robin, I have done as much as I can, please finish the exercise,” and so began the huge legal task of securing Altamont for the state.
“Fourteen years and 11 months later, it gives me the greatest pleasure as executor and friend of Corona to fulfil her desires as set out in her will to hand over the keys of Altamont and all that it comprises to the minister of state Brian Hayes, to take this property forward to be administered by the Office of Public Works for the benefit of the people of Ireland,” said Mr Harvey. He also paid tribute to the involvement of county manager Tom Barry, director of services Seamus O’Connor and the staff of Altamont, which includes Pauline Dowling, Paul Cutler, Teresa Maher, Eamon Nolan, Robert Miller and Trevor Watkins.