In the 17th century, many of the houses were "Dutch Billys" [redbrick, gabled-fronted houses, familiar to anyone who has ever visited the Netherlands] but by the middle of the 19th century the street was full of small shops, including many family operated groceries shops as well as a number of dairies. Unfortunately by 1900 the street was effectively a slum as most houses had become multi-occupancy tenements.

By the middle of the 20th century Francis Street had become more commercial and industrial and acted as a base for many manufacturers of furniture, beds, cabinets, sheet metal products and shirts.

In the late 1990s the antiques trade began relocating to Francis Street from the city quays and up until recently the street had [maybe still has] the highest concentration of antique dealers in Ireland.

A major redevelopment of Francis Street is due to begin sometime this year [2019] with the appointment by Dublin city Council of a contractor to oversee detailed design and construction. The refurbishment includes replacing existing pavements with wider pavements in quality stone, creating new raised table areas to mark key landmarks along the street, adding new lighting and street furniture, and planting trees and landscaping the street.

The junctions at either end of Francis Street will also be improved, while the high quality paving will also extend down Hanover Lane.

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