On Friday, an iconic part of the Magnificent Seven, Mille Fleurs, was handed over to the National Trust of T&T after four years of restoration work and $10 million spent to return the structure to its former glory.
The home was built in 1904 as a gift to Dr Enrique Prada from his wife, Virginia and, since then, stood resolute overlooking the Queen’s Park Savannah. But as the years went by, time took its toll until the decision was taken by cabinet in 2016 to include the building as part of a restoration programme for iconic structures in T&T.
The now restored structure was described by Dr Prada’s great-granddaughter, Heather May-Wittet, in one word—“perfect.”
“This is wonderful. It’s a privilege for myself and my family to see this come alive again,” Heather May-Wittet told Guardian Media following the handing over ceremony.
“My dad would have brought me here as a child, maybe 12 or 13. The last time (I came here) was maybe 20, 23 years ago. I was not able to come upstairs because the floors...they were rotting. It was unsafe to come up.”
The house, she said, was a perfect match to the photos in the family album.
May-Wittet also brought a piece of her great grandmother to the ceremony; a pair of her earrings, handed down through the generations, which she wore.
A lighted Mille Fleurs during the handover ceremony last week.
She was accompanied to the ceremony by her daughter, Jessie-Marie Chaves who first stepped foot inside the house in March along with her children. She remembered passing the house while on her way to visit her grandparents, looking at the house while passing by and was extremely grateful for the effort that went into preserving not only a part of her family’s history but the country’s.
“It was like that used to be our family’s home (and now) I tell my kids; that was our family home,” she said.
“This is part of our history, this is part of our family history. So it’s very special, very meaningful, very special to be back here and to know the hard work and planning and the thought and those who fought to keep the house still standing and who fought to keep it beautiful...it really should be commended.”
About Mille Fleurs restoration
Mille Fleurs was built in 1904 by George Brown of the Trinidad Trading Company as a gift to Dr Enrique Prada who would serve as the Mayor of Port-of-Spain from 1914 to 1917.
Dr Prada was a scholar and a public-minded man. Born in Venezuela in 1867, he came to Trinidad at an early age where he lived until his death in 1944.
Named among Trinidad’s “Magnificent Seven” buildings and recognised by the public as national heritage site, the restoration project was meant to significantly enhance the morale of the national community.
The project included the restoration and transformation of the building from a private residence to a public museum.
Another building named “The Mews” was constructed on the site of the former stables, at the rear of the property which will contain offices for the museum staff; a restoration and heritage library; storage of antiques; public bathrooms and a small cafeteria and shop for the visitors.
Landscaped gardens and ambient exterior lighting was done to complement the architecture and create an elegant contrast to the Savannah at night. Seating will also be provided in a designated area on the grounds to allow visitors to view and enjoy the gardens.