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    September 20

  • 05:54 AM

Sam Lord's lost long before fire

CAROL MARTINDALE, carolmartindale@nationnews.com

Added 21 October 2010

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Online Editor Carol Martindale gives her take on the loss of one of Barbados' national treasures - Sam Lord's Castle. What a pity it is that one of Barbados’ national treasures has been lost to fire. On Wednesday night fire broke out, gutting the palatial Sam Lord’s Castle in St Philip.Firefighters fought unsuccessfully to keep the flames under control but sadly, their valiant efforts were not able to save the property.There is no doubt that Sam Lord’s Castle, built in 1820 by Samuel Hall Lord, has held pride of place in Barbados’ history throughout the years. Unfortunately, even with the pomp associated with the property, it has not always been treated that way.Back in 2007 the Castle was one of the 13 properties earmarked for a make over owing to years of neglect.The truth of it is that long before the fire, Sam Lord’s Castle, once the toast of the hospitality industry, had lost a lot of its splendour.In 2007 I visited the site and reported on the state of ruin of the 19th century property which up to that time only had the cracked Castle and some villas standing.The place was a haven for termites and bats.I was left in a state of shock and awe  when I saw the state of the hotel. It was deserted and there was overgrown bush everywhere.Back in 2005 there were plans to transform the property into a five-star hotel by new owners Clico.At that time I wrote: “The area is deserted and overgrown bush and trees around some buildings stand as testimony that Sam Lord's Castle's once glorious reign in the parish of St Philip has ended.Few buildings are now standing – the Castle, not as regal as it once was, a few pink villas, and the kitchen area and a restaurant. An impressive wing of the hotel that once dominated this property has been levelled, leaving a picturesque view of the ocean, where the story goes, many ships' captains ran aground.Chandeliers, seemingly out of place, still hang from the high ceilings, telling the story of the grander, glittering times that once characterised the Castle. There are loose floor boards and a not-too-sturdy stairway. Rubble along the hallway is evidence that the boards and ceiling have fallen victim to rot”.How sad it was at that time to witness the deterioriation of such a splendid sprawling property.The property has also been plagued by financial turmoil.In 2005 CLICO Holdings signed on the dotted line to become the official owners, rescuing it from drowning in a sea of debt.The conglomerate had shelled out $33 million to buy the hotel and secured a further $21 million to clear off a debt allegedly left by the former parent company Marriotts.Before that, its owners were Grant Hotels Inc, run by local businessman Tom Grant.From 2003 this debt-strapped resort has been involved in a roller coaster chain of events. In fact in June that year, furniture and equipment at the hotel were to be auctioned to satisfy an outstanding debt of $250 000 in contributions and interest to the National Insurance Scheme. The following year, Sam Lord's Castle – a 248-room property was listed "For Sale" in the property section of the April 4, Sun Classifieds of the SUNDAY SUN.Then in 2005, things got worse for this hotel and a legal battle started.I make all these points to show that long before Wednesday night’s fire, Sam Lord’s Castle had lost its royal standing in our society.How sad that such events will go down in the annals of history and that a national treasure is lost! carolmartindale@nationnews.com

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