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Garrison ‘needs to be restored’

Heather-Lynn Evanson

Garrison ‘needs to be restored’

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When Britain’s rule was in its ascendancy, they teemed with the rank and file of the British army.
Others remind us of architecture of times past.
Hundreds of years later, some of those buildings are now no more; others have been remodelled and reused, while some cling tenaciously to life despite the weight of time.
We’re talking about the historic buildings in the island’s capital and supporting garrison.
This week, Heather-Lynn’s Habitat takes a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of some of the old buildings of Bridgetown and its Historic Garrison.
And we hear from the man behind the restoration and adaptive reuse of one of Dominica’s once destroyed garrison and his thoughts on the issues facing Barbados.
The brains behind the restoration of a once abandoned garrison on the Dominican coast feels someone here needs to step up and restore the Barbados Garrison or else its World Heritage designation “would be a distinction that simply sits on paper”.
“Whether it is a trust, a group, a management organisation, someone has to take the initiative now to make that Garrison work or else it would be a distinction that simply sits on paper and is used over and over again for advertising without the product actually being improved,” said Dr Lennox Honychurch.
The prominent historian and anthropologist was the man who almost single-handedly spearheaded the Cabrits Garrison restoration on the north-west coast of Dominica.
That 1774 garrison had been reduced to rubble and hidden under more than a century of dense forest growth before Honychurch gathered funding and a team of artisans to restore it to its former magnificence.
He stressed that the designation of Barbados’ Garrison as a World Heritage Site made it more important that individuals and/or groups work towards restoring and refurbishing the buildings that were running to ruin.
It is something that must happen, was how he put it.
“You cannot leave the Garrison, with all of the international status that it has now acquired, to fall apart as it is falling apart now,” he stressed. “Somebody or some group of people have to take the existing Garrison and turn it into something that becomes a centre of activity.”
He suggested that in the wake of calls for the establishment of a National Art Gallery, the buildings could be turned into art studios or leased out to artists. They could become the focus of visitors and help generate income.  
“The CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) is moving out of the one of the main barracks and that would make a perfect National Art Gallery,” he said.
He used the Cabrits restoration as an example. After the main soldier barracks was reclaimed from the jungle and painstakingly restored using old photographs as guides, it was turned into a hostel.
That could also be done here, Honychurch said.
However, he sees one major stumbling block in any attempt to restore the island’s historic buildings. And it is bureaucracy.
In Dominica, he said getting the relevant governmental approval for the work on the Cabrits Garrison took mere months.
But he termed the bureaucracy in Barbados “deadening”.
“I find in Barbados the bureaucracy is such a barrier to efficient action that it takes years and years for anything to be done. Sometimes you may even have the funds but the permission to take that a step further is so slow,” he noted.
For Honychurch, the failure to restore and capitalise on what is in the Barbados Garrison can be described in one word – tragic.
“It would be tragic and it would be, in fact, a great embarrassment if the abandonment of the Garrison continues when you have just . . . gained this international status.”