1650 Bridgetown Building Marred by Repairs

Leading authorities on Barbados’ architectural heritage have expressed their disappointment about the destruction of a Dutch architectural gable atop a historic building at the corner of James and Lucas Streets in Bridgetown. See article below:

The building, opposite the former home of Police Headquarters, harks back to a time where there was a bitter trade war between the island’s colonial master Britain and its trade adversary Holland. According to Dr. Karl Watson, its style is so typically Dutch that it would fit right in, should it be transplanted to Amsterdam, Holland, or Willemstad, Curacao. But today, after having withstood the numerous fires that ravaged early Bridgetown, the building that was the lynchpin of the island’s bid to have its capital city and The Garrison listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has lost what made it stood out. Workmen, who have been refurbishing the building for about a week now, have cemented the curvilinear gables that can still be seen under the mortar.

[. . .] Watson explained the building could be seen as a metaphor for, and as a monument to, the battle between the Dutch and British in the 17th century for trade supremacy. “It is the only tangible survivor in the entire Caribbean of that commercial conflict and should be preserved for its age, its stylistic quality and for the historical significance,” Watson revealed. [. . .] “In all fairness to the owner,” said Watson, who stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity and not as president of the Barbados National Trust, “I don’t believe the owner understands the significance and importance of the structure and this then begs the question: what is the agency responsible to ensure that any renovations are carried out within the guidelines set out by UNESCO.

“What they have done is not compatible with the historical significance of the building, but I do not think the owner or workmen set out to destroy it. I simply think they do not understand,” the eminent professor said. This, said Watson, highlighted one of the loopholes coming out of the island’s capital city and its Garrison being listed as a World Heritage Site. [. . .]

Meanwhile, in a letter sent to the Sunday Sun, Professor Henry Fraser, another eminent historian, condemned the action. “The damage done in the name of repairs is the result of a combination of [a] lack of understanding, disinterest and many other factors, including the failure of adequate mechanisms for protection of our valuable built treasures – both before and after our inscription as a World Heritage Site,” he wrote.

“We, as a nation, must rise and accept our responsibility to protect our patrimony. It is our lifeblood, especially in today’s world where our sun, sand and sea will no longer be our salvation,” wrote the chairman of the Barbados National Trust’s Sentinel Committee.

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see http://www.nationnews.com/index.php/articles/view/repairs-ruin-rare-gable

Also see http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=3Dlocal&NewsID=22259

Photo from http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/dutch-history-buried-in-cement/

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