Thursday, 14 February 2008

Boissierre House- How to Save it?

How do we save these beautiful buildings?
This is not a new question. The Heritage Trust Act was passed in Parliament in 1991.
How is it that in 2008 we are still campaigning against the destruction of the nation's architectural heritage?
Nicholas Laughlin, editor of the Caribbean Review of Books was the first to start this thread. Link to the Save the Boissiere House Website here for more information.
I am going to do a time line as I understand it.

1. National Heritage Trust Act passed in Parliament in 1991 with the intention of preserving houses like the Boissiere House.
2. A National Heritage Trust Council was established to manage this Act. A chairman and a secretary were appointed. All other members were voted onto the Council.

3. The first requirement of listing a property is the preparation of a dossier.
The dossier contains buildings identified for inclusion on the National Heritage List.
Each building submitted must include information qualifying its importance to National Heritage.
Areas include architectural style, historical facts and individual specs on the house.

4. After this is completed, the owners of the properties must be approached in writing to ensure that they are amenable to inclusion on the list.
This functions as a notification to list.
The owners do not lose any rights to the building- ownership is never an issue- the listing simply identifies that the building has historical significance and is protected by law. Once the property is listed, this enables the owner to access professional advice.
There is a plan for a fund to assist with appropriate maintenance and restoration of the building.
At the moment there are 25 buildings carded for listing.

5. The next step - Cabinet must instruct the Ministry of Legal Affairs to establish the necessary technical and legal procedures to establish an historically protected property.

6. Once this has been completed, the document must go back to the Minister of Culture and Social Development to re-present the draft to Cabinet for final approval.

7. When this has been done, the listing is placed in the Government Gazette for public perusal.

If there are no objections, it is approved.

Trying to pinpoint the project status is tricky. If we can identify where the process has snagged, conservationists can be precise as to where to apply pressure to expedite the saving of our vernacular architecture.

Why the crisis? Because yet another landmark building has been adorned with a For Sale sign.

Boissiere House popularly known as "The GingerBread House"

This cottage Ajoupa is marked by its green slate, steeply-pitched roof which is the main element. A large dormer gable is the most beautifully decorated with fretwork, the finest remaining example in Trinidad.

Gingerbread Houses, where possible, threw out diagonal galleries with a cupola or steeply-pitched octagonal roofs. At No 12 Queen's Park West these projections are incredibly beautiful and include a whole Chinese pavillion. The fretwork also achieved its ultimate here and the wood is heavily undercut and exaggerated so that the first impression is one of the lacework resembling a woman swirling a lacy dress.

Architecture of the Caribbean Trinidad's Heritage by John Newel Lewis. p.251

Original cast iron fencing that is in need of restoration as many areas have been lost.