Synagogue Restoration Project Continues in Bridgetown, Barbados

barbados-jewish-synagogueIn “An oasis on the rise in The City,” Gercine Carter writes about restorations around Bridgetown, Barbados “to enrich the UNESCO World heritage site Bridgetown and its Garrison.” Work is currently in progress on the redevelopment and restoration of an entire city block bounded by James Street, Synagogue Lane, Coleridge Street and Magazine Lane. This restoration project strengthens Barbados as a destination for heritage tourism, especially for visitors interested in the island’s rich Jewish history.

It is the concluding phase of an extensive project conceptualised by the original Synagogue Restoration Committee led by businessman Paul Altman that will see old and abandoned buildings that were a part of Bridgetown’s history taking on new life and significance.

Altman took the Sunday Sun on a tour of the area which is expected to be completely transformed in time for Barbados’ celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence next year. The old artisans’ workshop on James Street will be restored and reused for the same purpose, while Barbados’ first city fire station on Coleridge Street will be converted into a museum with a café and washroom facilities.

The Weights and Measures Building, where shopkeepers of yesterday had their iron weight measures checked and certified, will also be restored for “adaptive reuse”. Altman said Codds House, an early site of the Barbados Parliament and where the Emancipation Bill was proclaimed, was demolished from where it stood close to the Montefiore Fountain on Coleridge Street. A monument will be erected as a reminder of its historic significance.

The first major project of the original programme started in 1985 with the restoration of the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and the rabbis’ house which is now an impressive Jewish museum with interactive displays. In this latest project, the Jewish cemetery which has a centuries-old history will be extended. A wall which now stands on the western side of the Synagogue is coming down to make way for the construction of a new social hall to facilitate hosting of Jewish weddings, Bat Mitzvahs and other functions associated with the synagogue.

A major part of the plan in the current phase is demolition of the old Barbados Telephone Exchange building on the corner of James and Coleridge streets. Altman said the car park that will take its place will be made “more aesthetically pleasing” with trees, other vegetation and seating, bringing greening to an area that is now a mass of concrete. Lay-bys will be provided for tour buses and sidewalks and street lighting will be added to ensure the entire block is user-friendly and safe.

The entire project is getting philanthropic assistance and the people behind it believe it will enhance Barbados’ position as a destination for heritage tourism, since the island has such a long, rich Jewish history.

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