The Eastern Main Road was an asset to Laventille. It passed right at its feet and allowed easy access in an easterly or westerly direction. Such was the traffic that in 1846, a tollgate was erected along the Eastern Main Road near the little hamlet of Success Village (formed on the marginal lands of a nearly bankrupt sugar estate) which charged a fee to carts entering the city. This measure was revoked in 1878 and a monument erected in 1918 to mark the spot.
The monument was removed to the National Museum when the roadway was widened. Near this same place in 1853, Governor Lord Harris commissioned a drinking trough where a spring was made to flow into a stone basin. Here tired travellers and animals could cool off before entering or leaving Port-of-Spain.
Five years later, using the beautiful blue limestone of the district, the little Anglican chapel dedicated to St Matthias was constructed and can be seen today along the Eastern Main Road albeit heavily modified. A 30-foot statue of Our Lady from France was erected near a wooden Catholic church in a hollow near the foothills in the 1870s. After much trial and tribulation, a plot of land was bought atop a suitable hill and a stone building erected. This was commissioned in 1886 and is today "Our Lady of Laventille" which is a pilgrimage of annual importance as devotees climb the steep path to the church.
Despite these religious advances, Laventille quickly became a place for people seeking black magic. The area right up until the first half of the 20th century was well known for its concentration of obeah men. Their craft was sought by people in all walks of society and for many purposes from as petty as winning a sweepstake to putting a curse upon a hapless victim. Indeed, police raids were frequent and in one account dating from the 1890s, a cricket match in Santa Cruz was interrupted when someone noticed a man on the verge of the field burying a bottle. When apprehended (and beaten), the fellow proved to have been a supporter of the opposing team and had been to Laventille to secure an obeah charm to tilt the odds in their favour.
In the 1870s an old stone building with thick walls dating from Spanish times was converted to be used as the government armory where ammunition, gunpowder and explosives were stored with just a watchman and police constable on guard duty. Thousands of pounds of deadly combustibles and bullets and guns stored in an area today which is dangerous even to police. In 1887 JH Collens described the area as follows:
"Bidding good-bye to Port-of-Spain, the first object to strike the eye is a plain white stone building on the eminence–the Government magazine for the storing of gunpowder, ammunition, with other explosives and inflammable commodities, which the public are only allowed to keep in limited quantities. The quarries near by are worked by gangs of convicts, and furnish good material for road-making. High on the hill is the little Church (RC; of our Lady of Laventille, a landmark for many miles; near to it being the martello-like Fort Picton. You will catch just a glimpse of a boon to thirsty pedestrians–the Drinking Fountain, considerately placed by Lord Harris on the road. In the same way you get a peep of the small Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches in Success Village.
Laventille, belonging to Messrs Turnbull, the first estate, is apparently being abandoned, so far as sugar is concerned; it would make a capital stock-farm. The manager's house, on the hill, stands alone in its glory, in what ought to be a splendid situation, if it is not too near the marshes."
Laventille during World War II became a key place from whence many locals went forth to the American military bases at Chaguaramas to find work. Their ranks were swelled by immigrants from Barbados, Grenada and St Vincent who also came to follow the promise of the Yankee Dollar.
The Americans tackled the problem of the encroaching marshes of the Caroni Swamp which were drained and levelled in order to make way for their great military road which is today the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway. This community also will forever by synonymous with the invention of the national instrument, the steelpan which has its origin deeply rooted in these hills and the rhythms of its people. The rich history of Laventille shows that regardless of present circumstances, there is a past there of which its residents can be proud.