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Curator Vel Lewis appeals for consultation before demolition of historic buildings
Minister of National Diversification and Social Integration Clifton De Coteau is calling for an end to the demolition of historic buildings. Chairman of the National Trust Vel Lewis is also appealing to owners of historic buildings, private or public, to consult with the trust before renovating or demolishing.
Responding to the destruction of the Coterie of Social Workers building at the corner of Coffee and La Coule Streets, San Fernando, De Coteau said he was grieved the landmark building would no longer exist and advocated that such disregard for the past must come to an end. “My ministry, together with the National Trust, have been struggling to keep the past alive, and every so often we hear, after the fact, that a building of historical value has been destroyed,” he said.
The building was demolished earlier this week, by its owners, the San Fernando City Corporation. San Fernando mayor Dr Navi Muradali said the abandoned building had become a drug haven for addicts and criminals. He said the integrity of the building was structurally unsound and based on complaints from neighbouring owners of property and concerned citizens, the council took a decision to demolish the building. He said people who are now advocating for its preservation should have come years ago with a viable proposal.
He said there were no alternative plans for the space at the moment. However, conservationist James Lee Wah said buildings of that nature are under the remit/jurisdiction of the National Trust and the trust should be consulted before any changes are made to the building or site. Lee Wah said the landmark building was earmarked for either an art gallery or a museum.
De Coteau said his ministry was in the process of preserving all buildings of interest in T&T through the trust and was willing to provide information or help in that regard. The building dates back to 1921 when the late Audrey Jeffers, OBE, moved by the sufferings of the underprivileged and dispossessed, established the coterie to provide free lunches to poor, hungry school children.
That building was also the starting point for cultural activities in the south, and was once dubbed the home of ballet, taught by Joan Ironside, who later migrated to England.
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