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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Rebirth of City block

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Rebirth of City block

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THE REDEVELOPED SYNAGOGUE PROJECT has risen from the rubble of the old Telephone Exchange building – literally.

The blocks and timber from the demolished building, which once stood on the corner of James and Lucas Streets, The City, were used in many aspects of the redeveloped buildings in the redeveloped block.

This was revealed by project manager Joe Steinbok, of Steinbok Management Services Ltd, as he addressed the official opening and handing over ceremony of the block on Sunday afternoon.

The project also discovered two exciting finds, he said – a Quaker grave dating from 1837, and at least 13 more Jewish headstones.

Steinbok said that while the more than $15 million project came in on budget, “administration and administrative constraints and problems that we had to resolve” caused it to finish after the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Independence.

He explained that when the Telephone Exchange was torn down, the project officers decided to reuse as much as possible.

“So we did some salvage there, and I am sure the conservationist among us would be happy that we were doing some recycling,” he said.

“We wanted to restore the buildings, so we wanted material that would match the buildings that we were trying to restore. So we then salvaged quite a bit of the material from the building that was torn down.”

The big timbers from the Telephone Exchange Building are now the reconstructed roof in The City’s first fire station, which is a museum and interpretive centre.

The wooden floors of the demolished building have taken on a new life as the wooden floors of the restored Artisan Workshops.

Even the rubble from the torn-down building was reused.

“You will see many rubble walls around. That was all done with old rubble and not new rubble,” Steinbok said.

“And then the coral stone blocks where we could salvage, they weren’t enough, but we got as many as we could. Many other people around the island, when they saw what we were doing, called and volunteered that they had blocks that we could get.”

Steinbok went on to say that when workmen were digging the foundation of the Artisans Workshops – that building with he eight iconic doors – they stumbled across a number of Jewish headstones, as was the case when they were extending the courtyard and found a Quaker grave near the perimeter wall.

However, noted the block was more than Jewish history. It included the former site of William Codd’s House, which was not only used as a meeting place of Parliament, but was where the Emancipation Bill was proclaimed and where Samuel Jackman Prescod entered Parliament as the first non-white Barbadian.

That site was also a major Quaker burial ground which, said Steinbok, the project refused to disturb. it is now a green park for cars, with a monument to Codd’s House.

“The project is called the Synagogue Redevelopment Project, and many people will feel it is about Jewish history in Barbados. But I hope everyone is now aware that this City block contains so much history about all of us as Barbadians and not just Jewish heritage.”

And he made one plea.

“I hope Barbadians will take the opportunity to visit the buildings within the block and enjoy the rich history which is contained. I am also imploring everyone to treat the area with the respect and dignity it deserves, and refrain from littering and removing the items that are out there, like the plants.”

However, Steinbok did have one lament about a “serious problem” – that someone was continually stealing the plants being used to green the area.

“But hopefully that will stop,” he added.