Posts Tagged ‘Magnificent Seven’

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Whitehall - Port of Spain, Trinidad

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This is a sketch of Whitehall in Port of Spain, Trinidad. This is the fifth sketch I have done thus far of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (a series of mansions by the Queen’s Park Savannah). The Henderson family acquired this building known as Whitehall in 1910 from William Gordon Gordon after foreclosure on Joseph Leon Agostini and lived there until 1941. They vacated it that year to give way to the U. S. Armed Forces who commandeered Whitehall for Army Headquarters.

It was used by the Americans until V.E. Day in 1944 and handed back to the Hendersons; they never returned to the building. Instead it was leased in that same year to the British Council. Whitehall also housed the Central Library, Eastern Caribbean Regional Library, The Trinidad Art Society and the Cellar Club. In 1954 the building was sold to the Trinidad Government for $123,000. In 1957 the Trinidad Government agreed to lend the building rent-free too the then Federal Government of the West Indies as temporary headquarters. Today Whitehall accommodates the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

J. Newel Lewis, one of the nation’s renowned architects, described the building as a white wedding cake because of the most unusual feature – a parapet to hide the roof. It presents a regular but undulating facade, tactile, inviting and seductive, surrounded by a white wall of appropriate design set off by a huge, dark parasol-like samaan tree. Whitehall was designed by its first owner in Corsican style with Venetian influence, and built by James Moore a builder from Barbados. Moore employed natural white sandstone imported from that island, in the construction. Besides the roof which was completed in 1910, the rest of the building took from 1902 to 1904 to construct, at a cost of around $80,000. It was the largest of the four private residences along the stretch of Maraval Road, opposite the savannah.

Over the years, Whitehall has undergone considerable renovation because of its conversion to a Government building, and the rooms have been partitioned into offices. This has undoubtedly detracted from its original beauty. However, a reasonable degree of the preservation of the original architecture still remains. Whitehall was built on an elaborate scale – three storeys high, a garden on the roof, six bedrooms four reception halls, a center room, dining room, library, large front and other galleries, porches, sweeping marble steps, patio, and a host of minor rooms like kitchen, pantry, etc., in keeping with a style of living which has disappeared from Trinidad. In the interior were long corridors. On the first floor, a dining room, said to have been done by Agostini’s daughters, Stella and Blanche, was paneled with local cyp and mahogany, carved to represent nutmeg and cocoa. The French style drawing room was decorated in wedgewood blue. Each of the large bedroom suites was meant for one of the Agostini daughters.

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Whitehall, Port of Spain, Trinidad (Photo taken in 2006)

When the Hendersons took over Whitehall, the dining room was decorated in the German style of the period, and in it hung four large canvasses of rural scenes. Its walls were covered with an imported wallpaper with a raised pomegranate design meant to represent leather. This paper has now been painted over, but the raised design is still visible. On the upper floor were the bedroom suites with dressing rooms attached. The plumbing was advanced for the time; there were marble-surrounded wash basins and baths, and an unusual ‘needle point’ shower of a design not seen today. Above the bedroom was a vast attic and storeroom, and still further up, was the room on the roof known as the Blue Room. From the Blue Room, one could walk onto the balustraded roof and obtain a panoramic view of Port of Spain. It used to be possible to climb onto the roof of the Blue Room until 1954, at which time it was condemned. It was replaced by a galvanized roof, and the steps were removed.

In the basement were the wine cellars; wine was imported by the cask in those days, and bottled on the premises. The kitchen, pantry, serving rooms and the tiled breakfast room decorated in German style were also part of the basement. A small service lift connected this floor and the upper floors. The stables, coach-house and servants’ quarters were located outside. The hitching post and remains of the horse trough are still to be seen. In the grounds stood a large bronze bell which the Hendersons’ had brought from Venezuela. At one time, there was some discussion about retaining Whitehall as a Cultural Center. Some thought that it would have been ideal as a venue for cultural clubs, and a place to hold small concerts and exhibitions. This has not materialized, and although it now houses the Office of the Head of Government of the nation, it is part of Trinidad’s past that is worthy of preservation.


Abstract Architecture of the day:

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Archbishop's House in Port of Spain, Trinidad

9” x 12” Strathmore sketchbook, ink pens, & Sharpies

This is a sketch of The Archbishop’s House in Port of Spain, Trinidad. This is the fourth sketch I have done thus far of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (a series of mansions by the Queen’s Park Savannah). I started to color it, then stopped to scan it, hence the colors on the left side. “The building has been described as a semi-oriental palace and in other instances, as Romanesque in style. It is the official residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. The structure was built in 1903 by the fifth Archbishop of Port of Spain, Patrick Vincent Flood, at a time when the wealthy estate-owning French Creoles were building on Maraval Road. In keeping with the dignity of his office, the Archbishop thought that he would build a palatial residence. At the time of the construction of the building, when European architecture dominated the Trinidad scene, it was difficult to conceive of an oriental-influenced building. The wide open-house on both floors and the dark rooms where little natural light ever got are areas which suggest the characteristics of an oriental palace.

One reason put forward is that the house was designed by an Irish architect in Ireland who favoured Indian architecture. Construction of the building was done by George Brown of the Trinidad Trading Company. Peter Ward in his article “Buildings of Interest” in the “Studio Arts Group Magazine” of February, 1970, asserts that the structure is influenced mainly by Byzantine style and as an example, the simple basilican plan of the chapel on the south side with its sanctuary, reflected the plans of early Byzantine churches. There is also a touch of early Renaissance architecture in the building. This is evidenced by the elaborate crenellation on the top of the tower which bears medieval connotations, as well as the open medallions in the spandrels on the ground floor, despite their crude Gothic motifs.

The marble and red granite used in the building came from Ireland, and the cedar and greenheart used for the paneling, staircase and floors, were obtained locally. In 1968 extensive renovations were carried out on the building by architect Sonny Sellier, and contractor Rev. Father Kevin Devenish. After its completion in 1969, Monsignor Anthony Pantin, the first Trinidad-born Archbishop, took up residence there. The massive-looking structure, with its outhouses and lawns, takes up about an acre of land. Before renovation, whenever it rained, the verandahs got so flooded that every door in the building had to be closed. Through an archway of the wide verandah, one could get an excellent view of the savannah, and the hills of the north.

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Archbishop House, Trinidad

In the interior, on the ground floor, for example, there were only three rooms: office, library and large reception / dining room. Up a wide staircase was found the second floor which housed the conference room, winged on either side by two living apartments. In the four points of the square tower, Archbishop Flood tried to symbolise the four-square authority of the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. In a room in this tower, during Archbishop Dowling’s time, a French Dominican priest stricken with leprosy, lived out the rest of his life. That was the only time the room was used. Since renovation, as one approaches the entrance, there is a Coat of Arms – the Spirit of the Holy Ghost looking down on the Three Hills of Trinidad. Underneath a cross is the motto: Omnia Omnibus (All things to all men). The interior of the building has been altered almost completely. There are glass doors opening on to the gallery.

On the ground floor are the Archbishop’s, and his secretary’s offices, the library, reception hall and dining room. The reception hall which was once partitioned from the north side to the south is now open, and the greenheart staircase which faces the main entrance can be seen. Adjoining the hall on the north side are the offices of the Archbishop and his secretary which used to be one room, and the library. There is a large mahogany suite in the dining room which is on the south side of the reception hall. The suite was presented to Archbishop Dowling by the nuns of St. Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain. What used to be the conference room above the reception hall is now a private drawing room which looks out on an open patio above the main entrance. There are two bedrooms on each side of the landing, two of the four being used as guest rooms.

Despite the renovation changes, there are still remnants of the original building. In the guest room on the south side of the landing, there is a cedar and mahogany roll-top desk which Archbishop Flood brought to the house. In the one on the north, there is a white wicker chair, also from Flood’s time, in which Archbishop Dowling was found dead one morning. One part of the architecture that remains undisturbed is the room above the open patio in the tower where the French Dominican priest who was stricken with leprosy was kept. One view is that the renovation at the Archbishop’s House has robbed it of the ‘presence’ of its original structure. It is claimed that with more careful planning, the character of the building could have been preserved.”


My mentor gave me some beautiful old posters that he was about to throw away. I thought I would share them with you. Click here >>>

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Hayes Court, Trinidad

9” x 12” Strathmore sketchbook, ink pens, & Sharpies

This is a sketch of Hayes Court in Port of Spain, Trinidad. This is the second of four sketches I have done thus far of the ‘Magnificent Seven (a series of mansions by the Queen’s Park Savannah). Hayes Court is after the Queen’s Royal College. This building was completed in 1910 by the firm of Taylor Gilles at a cost of £15, 700. It was named “Hayes Court” after Bishop Thomas Hayes, who was the second Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Trinidad & Tobago.

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Hayes Court, Trinidad - Photo by Vernelle Noel

Architecturally it reflects a combination of the quiet graciousness of the French and English country house design, with its high ceilings, mahogany staircase, wrought-iron fretwork, and wood paneling. Iron fretwork and a beautiful porte cochere or coach doorway are features of this classic mansion.

Today, July 27th, is the 21st Anniversary of the attempted coup on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1990. Led by Abu Bakr, the Jamaat al Muslimeen invaded The Red House (seat of the country’s parliament), and took the Prime Minister hostage, along with members of his cabinet, government and opposition MPs, and others – some seventeen in all. About 24 people died during the coup attempt, with millions in property losses. More here >>

Our Republic forever changed on that day. Our Capital City of Port of Spain, had to be rebuilt as buildings were burned, and looted. Very often I feel that as a nation, our appreciation of our history leaves much to be desired. I see it in the way we treat our historic buildings, our national heroes, and our award-winners, to name a few. This day of July 27th should never be “just another day.” We must never forget what occurred on this day, and I would like to see a stronger expression of our commemoration of this day.

I believe July 27th should embrace six major principles (adapted from the United Nations Statement of Commitment adopted for Holocaust Memorial Day):

  1. The July 27th, 1990 attempted coup shook the foundations of Trinbagonian democracy and civilization. Its horror should always hold meaning.
  2. The July 27th, 1990 attempted coup must have a permanent place in Trinbagonians’ collective memory.
  3. Future generations must understand the causes of the July 27th attempted coup and reflect upon its consequences.
  4. The sacrifices of those who lost and risked their lives to protect or rescue victims are a touchstone of the Trinbagonian capacity for good.
  5. Education and research about the July 27th attempted coup must be promoted.
  6. An annual July 27th Memorial Day should take place to commemorate this human tragedy and condemn violence, lawlessness, and indiscipline.

Reference: As Time Goes on It’s Vital We Never Forget One of the Darkest Times in World History by Dan Cohn-Sherbok

“Memorials are important because they act as historical touchstones. They link the past to the present and enable people to remember and respect the sacrifice of those who died, fought, participated or were affected by conflict(s).”

Abstract Architecture for the day:

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