David's vision for Hazelwood HouseFrom ‘Sligo Champion’ - Sorcha CrowleyWhiskey, waterfalls and watertaxis, it could read straight from a James Bond screenplay. In fact it's the vision of Hazelwood House new owner Dublin entrepreneur David Raethorne which he shared with The Sligo Champion this week. He was in town to oversee the work which has already begun to make the house and former factory safe. "Initially, our plan is to fix up all the damage which will take six months minimum," he said, during our tour of the nationally important 18th century Palladian mansion. "At the same time we'll plan the entire project and submit planning in the next six months. That could take a year so you're looking at two years before the building could start."In the meantime, David plans to shore up the house, get it to the point where it's in walk-in condition so that at least he could bring the public in and show the house by this summer. The 20,000 sq ft house has beautiful cornicing and original timberwork. Many rooms are water damaged but the software millionaire plans to restore them all. It includes a master bedroom, ballroom, servants quarters and central atrium. The top floor could be used as a bridal suite for marquee weddings.He plans to use vaults underneath the house for a whiskey visitor centre. "Ultra premium single malt top end whiskey" will be distilled by master distillers.Two ancient mills in the grounds will be also be restored. Looking out from the upstairs windows, the 500,000 sq ft former factory is an eyesore."Our biggest challenge will be to disguise that," he admitted. "Maybe we'll use a water feature, a waterfall along the lines of the Water Wall in Houston Texas". Inside, he will build a distillery, art galleries and indoor zip-lining, high end retail and indoor gardens are all being considered. Final year architecture students from Sligo IT are doing a project on the House.Between the house and the river lies a roadway of derelict cottages which he plans to rebuild. He'd like to build a pontoon and provide a water taxi service between Sligo town and the site. "We don't want to do anything that's going to upset people. We'd rather work with people," he said.Eddie Walsh from Lissadell has been in touch. "Ultimately we'd like to end up with something that's complimentary to what Lissadell are doing. If we can get more tourists to Sligo it benefits everybody," he added. He may be up to his knees in mud but there's nothing bog standard about his vision for Hazelwood House."We want to turn it into a living building, along the lines of Powerscourt House.We're on the Wild Atlantic Way, the scenery around here is stunning, it has everything going for it. It just needsabitofoomph!"
Hazelwood House on the shores of Lough Gill in Co Sligo, which was built for the Wynne family in the 1720s, has been bought by a software developer who has pledged to transform it into a tourist destination. The sale has been welcomed by the Hazelwood Heritage Society which has campaigned for years for the preservation of the Palladian mansion. It was designed by Richard Cassels who also designed Leinster House and Powerscourt House.The new owner David Raethorne, intends to establish a craft distillery and visitors’ centre in the disused factory building on the estate and to restore the historic house. The Dublin-based businessman said he and his wife “fell in love with the place” when they first saw it last November, having come to view it with a friend who was thinking of buying it .“We intend to have a tourism project that will put Sligo on the map,” said Mr Raethorne. ‘Pop-up’ projects While stressing that planning was at “the very, very early stages” given that the sale was completed just before Christmas, he predicted that the estate would be open to the public by this summer. It is likely that initially “pop up” projects will be located in the factory which was built on the grounds by the Italian nylon manufacturer Snia in 1969. The new owner said that, as well as a distillery, his long term plans included the provision of a high end restaurant and retail facilities, as well as a number of arts initiatives and a range of outdoor activities. He predicted that, when up and running, the 80 acre estate could attract up to 200,000 visitors a year. Mr Raethorne’s proposals were welcomed by local conservation consultant Wendy Lyons, a founder member of the Hazelwood Historical Society. ‘Great for Sligo’ “If he does even 50 per cent of what he is planning I think it will be great for Co Sligo,” said Ms Lyons, who described Hazelwood as a house of national Importance. “It was the first one designed by Cassels before Powerscourt, Westport and Russborough,” she explained. Occupied by the Wynne family until the early 1900s, Hazelwood was bought by a group of local investors, Foresthaze Development, in 2006. This company which unsuccessfully sought planning permission for 158 detached houses and over 50 apartments there in 2007, was placed in receivership in 2013. The property, including the derelict factory building, was put on the market at an initial asking price of €2.5 million, which was later reduced to €550,000. Mr Raethorne said he had paid slightly over the asking price but said this figure was “irrelevant”. He said the cost of the developments planned would be “into millions”. He and his wife, Sue, are the primary shareholders in Hazelwood Demesne Limited, which is backed by “friends and family”.The proposed distillery would occupy only 5 per cent of the factory where the total floor space “is half the size of Dundrum shopping centre”, according to Mr Raethorne. Local campaigner Beatrice McDonald, whose grandfather was a gamekeeper on the estate, described the sale as “very good news” for the northwest.
Sligo mansion to be transformed into tourist destinationSoftware developer’s pledge to restore Hazlewood House is welcomed by heritage society - TheIrishTimes