O'Connell Street (Irish: Sráid Uí Chonaill) is Dublin's main thoroughfare. It measures 49 m (160 ft) in width at its southern end, 46 m (150 ft) at the north, and is 500 m (1650 ft) in length. Known as 'Sackville Street' until 1924, it was renamed in honour of Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader of the early nineteenth century whose statue stands at the lower end of the street, facing O'Connell Bridge.
Located in the heart of Dublin city, O'Connell Street forms part of a grand thoroughfare created in the 18th century that runs through the centre of the capital, O'Connell Bridge, Westmoreland Street, College Green and Dame Street, terminating at City Hall and Dublin Castle. Situated just north of the River Liffey, the street has a fine axial positioning, running close to a north-south orientation. Lined with many handsome buildings, O'Connell Street is the most monumental of Dublin's commercial streets, having been largely rebuilt in the early 20th century following extensive destruction in the struggle for Irish independence and subsequent civil war. It has the air of an imposing 1920s boulevard, with signature stone-faced neoclassical buildings such as Clerys department store complemented by the more subtle grain of elegant bank and retail premises. O'Connell Street Upper by contrast retains something of its original 18th century character, with the western side conforming to original plot widths and some original fabric still intact.
The street's layout is simple but elegant. Not dissimilar to Paris's Champs-Élysées, though more intimate in scale, it has a wide pavement each side of the street serving the retail outlets that line its length, and a parallel pair of two-lane (formerly three-lane) roadways. A paved median space runs down the centre of the street, featuring monuments and statues to various Irish political leaders. The famous large London Plane trees that lined the median for the second half of the 20th century were removed in 2003 amidst some controversy, with the oldest of these at the northern end planted c. 1903 being cut down in 2005 - all as part of an extensive regeneration scheme recently completed by Dublin City Council.
The centre of the street is dominated by the imposing presence of the 1818 General Post Office (GPO) with its hexastyle Ionic portico projecting over the west pavement, and the 120 m (393 ft) Spire of Dublin, a needle-like self supporting sculpture of rolled stainless steel erected in 2003. Both structures are addressed by a large civic plaza space, traversed by the street's two roadways.
O'Connell Street has often been centre-stage in Irish history, attracting the city's most prominent monuments and public art through the centuries, and formed the backdrop to one of the 1913 Dublin Lockout gatherings, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Civil War of 1922, the destruction of the Nelson Pillar in 1966, and many public celebrations, protests and demonstrations through the years - a role it continues to play to this day. State funeral corteges have often passed the GPO on their way to Glasnevin Cemetery, while today the street is used as the main route of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, and as the setting for the 1916 Commemoration every Easter Sunday. It also serves as a major bus route artery through the city centre.