Fire destroys the Abbey Theatre in Dublin on July 17, 1951, with only the Peacock, a small experimental theatre in the ground floor of the main theatre surviving intact. The play earlier in the evening closes with soldiers on stage singing Keep the Home Fires Burning.
In February 1961, the ruins of the Abbey are demolished. The board has plans for rebuilding with a design by the Irish architect Michael Scott. On September 3, 1963, the President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, lays the foundation stone for the new theatre. The Abbey reopens on July 18, 1966, at its new location at 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.
The Abbey Theatre first opens its doors to the public on December 27, 1904. Despite the loss of the original building to the 1951 fire, it has remained active to the present day. The Abbey is the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world. From 1925 onwards it receives an annual subsidy from the Irish Free State.
In its early years, the theatre is closely associated with the writers of the Irish Literary Revival, many of whom are involved in its founding and most of whom have plays staged there. The Abbey serves as a nursery for many of the leading Irish playwrights and actors of the 20th century, including William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, Seán O’Casey, and John Millington Synge. In addition, through its extensive programme of touring abroad and its high visibility to foreign, particularly American, audiences, it has become an important part of the Irish tourist industry.