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Colonial gems- Beauty and History

Sunday, January 26, 2014
Boissere House

These buildings capture a moment of history, and one neither has to be an architect or historian to appreciate the beauty of these colonial structures or their importance. Photographer EDISON BOODOOSINGH travelled throughout T&T to capture these images, while historian ANGELO BISSESSARSINGH provided the information on these colonial gems.



1. PORT-OF-SPAIN—BOISSIERE HOUSE: Of all the outstanding examples of the gingerbread house architecture style, this building stands as its foremost incarnation. Built in 1904 by Charles E H Boissiere, it was designed by Edward Bowen. Though not as large as some of the other homes of the district, the structure was both fanciful yet elegant in its execution, and it was the focal point of many architectural photo shoots even after it fell into dilapidation. The interior is no less ornate than the facade and includes unique gesso plaster ceilings executed by an Italian craftsman. After many decades of progressive neglect, this historic house was threatened with impending collapse or demolition, but is now being restored in a very low-key effort that has caused much speculation to date. 



2.BELMONT: Like Woodbrook from an earlier era, Belmont grew out of a district of colonial plantations to become a middle-class bedroom settlement of Port-of-Spain in the mid to late 1800s. It was distinguished by a strong sense of community spirit and its own unique identity, where the need for colonial respectability was mixed with powerful West African traditions that persevered in the upper reaches of the valley. Many of Belmont’s beautiful old homes have survived in remarkably good condition. It is a state of being that will endure since the residents of the area are keen on preservation of their heritage.



3. COUVA: Although energy and the sprawling industry of Pt Lisas drives the thriving town of Couva, sugar was once king here. From the 1820s to the demise of the sugar industry, Brechin Castle and its mighty factory was the heart of the area’s economy. Couva was not only home to labourers but rich planters as well, and in both classes, elegant homes were the order of the day. The last plantation great-house in the district was demolished just a few years ago, but the smaller homes with their whimsy fretwork and breezy porches still harken to a time when good living and a decent family home was prized above all else.



4. SAN FERNANDO-HAPPY CORNER HOTEL AND BAR: The whirl and rush of colourful humanity that defines a West Indian port town has vanished in Port-of-Spain, but lives on at King’s Wharf and the San Fernando Waterfront which has transformed itself from being a port for sugar in the 1800s to a transport and fishing hub today. For over 130 years, the ancient tavern astride the center of the thoroughfare has entertained those who travelled and relaxed at the wharf. Originally a well-regarded hotel owned by a stately madame, it has been known by many names over the decades but mostly so as the Black Cat Bar, and now Happy Corner Hotel and Bar. It is still a place to go for a beastly cold beer and a closer look at the architecture of the period. It is interesting to note that since its construction in the mid-19th century, the building has retained its original use as a hotel and bar.



Look out for more colonial gems in your February 2 Sunday Guardian.


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