The second fire in just weeks at the Roseau Public Library, has once again drawn attention to the precarious state of Dominica’s historic buildings.
SHAPE, The Society for Historic Architectural Preservation and Enhancement, has made a call for the building’s restoration and preservation, and is providing a platform for Dominicans to make their opinions heard.
“SHAPE calls for the rehabilitation of the Roseau Library and its surroundings as a multi-purpose space for arts and culture, and that its green space should be maintained and respected as a place for the public to enjoy. The library is of significant historic and architectural significance dating back to 1906, and the structure and its grounds have served as a quiet place for learning and inspiration to generations of Dominicans. In the continued congestion of Roseau, the preservation of this site is of even greater necessity.”
“We are providing a platform to let Dominicans have their voices heard regarding the issue of the library. For those who want to see this site preserved, sign the appeal at www.change.org/roseaulibrary. It is our hope that public opinion may inform government decisions, and we can work together for an optimal outcome.”
The Roseau Public Library dates back over one hundred years. In 1906, it was constructed with a grant of £1500 from the Scottish-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie and designed by the administrator, Sir Hesketh Bell. Carnegie’s wealth built 2,509 public libraries throughout the world; five were in the Caribbean, of which one is in Dominica. The land served as a parade ground for troops at Fort Young in 1770s, and after the troops left in the 1850s, it became the first public gardens on the island in the 1860s. The building has weathered numerous hurricanes including Hurricane David in 1979, after which it was swiftly restored.
The future of the site is currently undecided, although there have been talks of demolition to make space for a new structure.
“SHAPE recognises that the Roseau Public Library has become too small for 21st century demands,” said a SHAPE representative, “but we hope that a new space will be selected for the new library so as to preserve the old library building and green space.”
“Stay informed on all things related to architectural preservation and enhancement in Dominica by following @SHAPEDomnik on Facebook or contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every voice counts!”
Image: Photograph by Michael Lees.