Caribbean Gingerbreads: The Briarend House



[Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye for bringing this item to our attention via Critical.Caribbean.Art.] Lauren Baccus (Salt & Aloes) writes about her “love affair” with the architecture in Port of Spain, Trinidad, namely, homes known as Caribbean gingerbread houses; in this case, she examines The Briarend House. Baccus writes:

I have a deep love affair with fretwork, and especially the gingerbread houses that survive amidst the concrete, glass and development of Port of Spain. My walks around town after school would inevitably take me past at least five ornately decorated homes that I had decided were mine. Some were well kept, most were in poor condition, but those were the ones that held the most mystery. What lives were lived in the light and shadow of each cut?

Although decorative fretwork adorning buildings throughout the West Indies became synonymous with Caribbean architecture, the designs drew from global design traditions. Highly skilled artisans referenced motifs from Europe, India, and Africa, some can be traced to Fulani, Asante, Dogon, Kongo, Hausa cultures, among others.

Though popular throughout the 1920’s the costs associated with this painstaking work escalated, the tradecraft died out. Though some restoration efforts are underway, of the examples that remain, we face the consequence of time, neglect, and natural disasters, all of which threaten this architectural heritage.

Featured in this photo set is the Briarend House in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The home on 22 Sweet Briar Road was built for Henry Jeffers in 1908 but is most well known for a later resident, Henry’s daughter, Audrey Jeffers. Audre is remembered today as a tireless advocate for the rights of women and the people of African descent. The home itself, fits into a category of uniquely Trinbagonian design, an amalgam of styles fashionable during that period. Briarend House has the qualities of a late Victorian home. It is constructed with a balloon frame and has large upper floor timber framed with jalousies and sash windows on each elevation, a gable roof with large dormers, and gable end windows.

Though it had fallen into disrepair, Briarend was restored in 2015. [. . .]

For original post and to see photos by Josh Lu, visit

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