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Govt fails to start work on Magnificent Seven

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Restoration works on the Mag­nificent Seven buildings around the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain have not yet started.

In 2012, Government recommitted itself to the restoration of the historical buildings.

Whitehall, Stollmeyer’s Castle and Mille Fleurs, which are State owned, are to be restored by the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT). 

Hayes Court, which is pri­vately owned, will be looked af­ter by a committee convened by Anglican Bishop, Rev Claude Berkley. The committee will raise funds to cover the $24.1 million refurbishment cost. 

In an e-mail last week, UDe-

COTT, in response to questions on the status of restoration works, stated it is cur­rently preparing requests for proposals (RFPs) for public tender for historical restoration consultancy services for designs, structural engineering assessment, dilapidation and deterioration surveys. 

“RFPs will also be publicly invited for the construction phase of Whitehall. In November 2013, UDeCOTT issued a public tender, inviting proposals for consultancy services for the completion of the restoration and refurbishment works at Stollmeyer’s Castle,” UDeCOTT replied. 

“Submissions for this tender closed in December 2013 and proposals are to be evaluated. A timeline to completion for the remaining works at Stollmeyer’s Castle will be announced subsequently,” UDeCOTT ad­ded.

The Magnificent Seven has a rich history, which lobby groups have called on the authorities to preserve.

The UDeCOTT website gives some insight into the history of the buildings and the plans laid out for each of the three buildings in its care.

Mille Fleurs, one of the most dilapidated of the Magnificent Seven, was built in 1904 by George Brown of Trinidad Trading Company. 

“The project scope includes the restoration of this existing historic building, formerly a private residence, to serve as a Period Museum for public viewing. The building would become the only Heritage House among the Magnificent Seven to be open to the public,” according to the UDeCOTT website.

“To service the museum, an outbuilding named ‘The Mews’ would have to be constructed on the site of the former stables, at the rear of the property, to house offices for the museum staff, a restoration and heritage library, storage of antiques, public bathrooms and a small cafeteria and shop for the visitors.”

The gardens are to be landscaped to complement the Heritage House while exterior light­ing would ensure an elegant presence at night. Seating will be provided in a designated, small area on the grounds to allow visitors to view and enjoy the gardens. 

“UDeCOTT is awaiting confirmation of the user brief and formal approval from the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure to proceed with restoration works,” the website states.

Stollmeyer’s Castle (also called “Killarney”), the most popular of the seven, is a histo­rical house that was built as a retirement home for Charles Fou­rier Stollmeyer, an immigrant from the United States and supervisor for an asphalt company. 

“The house was constructed from 1902 to 1904 on the site of a former government stock farm. The castle was designed by a Scottish architect, Robert Gillies, from the firm of Taylor and Gillies. The Scottish influence was predominant in the design, which was reportedly patterned after a wing of Balmoral Castle in Scotland,” said the UDeCOTT website.”

“Whitehall, which was acquired by Trinidad and Tobago’s government, was used to house staff of the Office of the Prime Mi­nister up to 2007. UDeCOTT was mandated to undertake restorative and refurbishment works at Stollmeyer’s Castle. These works are in progress.”

“Whitehall and the Mews buildings located at the rear of the property are to be restored and refurbished,” according to the UDeCOTT website.

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