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Landmark torn down

Heather-Lynn Evanson

Landmark torn down

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MORE THAN a year after efforts to save a historic, but delisted, building on Bay Street began, that building was torn down yesterday.
The demolition has sparked the ire of the man who was in the forefront of the restoration efforts, as well as the head of the Barbados National Trust.
The building, located between Laurie Dash toy store and an eatery on Bay Street, was built in 1870 and was once known as E. Hunte Liquor Store.
The privately-owned building boasted an overhanging balcony that fronted upstairs living quarters and three lower-level front doors – a façade that was once standard in bygone Bridgetown, as well as Masonic Lodge symbols.
Yesterday, workmen with heavy duty equipment moved in and demolished the building as Peter Stevens, vice president of Garrison Consortium, watched in disgust.
Stevens acknowledged that the building had “issues” but not enough to warrant its demolition.
“We were working with a number of Government agencies to secure this building,” he said.
“The only difficulty we were aware of, in terms of its safety, was its balcony that was overhanging the road. The fact that we got to this stage – that an historic building was demolished without any notification being given
to either the National Trust or anyone else – it shows a huge failing in the system,” he declared.
Stevens said the fact the building was delisted by the Town and Country Development Planning Office “for no viable reason for which a building should be delisted” was worrying, but argued that delisting was still of no merit since it was in the World Heritage Site.
“It should have come under consideration. It is a serious matter to demolish one of these buildings,” he said.
With the building’s demolition, said Stevens, gone were any plans for transforming the block and capitalising on its warren of alleys.
“We had considered that this building could have been very useful in the development of this block, making it part of the historic network of alleys,” he said.
Stevens concluded that all of the agencies tasked with preserving the island’s heritage had dropped the ball.
Government, he stressed, needed to listen more, while the Garrison Consortium, the National Trust and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society needed to be better coordinated in their efforts.
“Maybe the building had to be demolished, but everyone needs to be on the same page so that when somebody comes and asks ‘why did we do this’, we could all say ‘we did it for this, this and that and we are sorry’.”
Meanwhile, an incensed National Trust president Dr Karl Watson said the building was “in the middle of our World Heritage zone” and merited being saved “for any number of reasons”.
It was of both historical and architectural significance; it fitted into the streetscape of the City and it was one of the few remaining balconied structures, he added.
“To me, it just doesn’t augur well for the future if we are just going to so callously disregard the commitments for conservation and preservation that we implicitly accepted when we were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” Watson said.
He called the demolition “a slap in the face” for the island’s World Heritage designation, especially as it occurred during World Heritage Month.
“Here we are destroying an irreplaceable part of our heritage fabric.” The two-storied building was once listed but was delisted after questions were raised about its structural integrity.
In February 2013 a fire of unknown origin damaged portions of its inside.
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