Posts Tagged ‘urban history of port of spain’

The Red House (Parliament Building) in Trinidad & Tobago, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, architecture, sletchblog

The Red House (Parliament Building) in Trinidad & Tobago

This is a sketch I did of the Parliament Building of Trinidad & Tobago, (also called The Red House) which faces Woodford Square in the Capital city of Port of Spain. It was painted red for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and has since remained this way. It is an absolutely beautiful building, taking up a city block. This is a sketch of the shorter side of the building, from Hart Street. I sat below the National Library and drew this. It is currently in poor shape since renovations have been going on for almost a decade. The Government recently decided to relocate Parliament out of the building within the next few months, so that the restoration project can be completed. I believe completion is carded for 2013. I have no doubt that a fantastic job will be done. This building, along with many others historic buildings in the city needs to be brought back to its glory.

Daniel Meinerts Hahn, from Germany, was the architect of Red House in Port of Spain, the second government building to bear this name. The first Red House, painted red for Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee, was gutted in the 1903 Water Riots and rebuilt and again painted red in 1907. The design is somewhat French Renaissance in character, showing a loose kinship to Pavillon Richelieu at the Louvre, with Corinthian/composite columns and pilasters, round-head and segmental arches, and fluted jambs. Red House has pavilions at the ends and at the center; the central pavilion is taller and open vertically from floor to dome. It has a groined dome roof, balustrade, cupola, and French Renaissance dormers. There was some damage to the building in the July 1990 coup attempt.

Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands by Edward E. Crain

Read more on The Red House >>>
Thought for today >>>

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Old Police Headquarters, Port of Spain, Trinidad, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel,

Old Police Headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad

I did this sketch of the Old Police Headquarters in the city of Port of Spain yesterday. I got 4 drawings done… which always feels good. This building has historic significance in Trinidad and Tobago, from its commissioning in 1876 to its destruction by fire (for a second time) in 1990, and its restoration in 2004. Another link >>>

The Port of Spain Police Headquarters, built on St. Vincent Street and commissioned in 1876, was gutted by fire in 1882 as a result of a fire started in the lamp room, and restored two years later. It is polychrome Italian Gothic revival, with machicolations in the parapet of its square tower. The major Gothic arch has interesting subdivisions, with a wheel window located above. In the attempted 1990 coup, the building was again gutted by fire.  On the site of this building once stood the barracks of the old West India Regiment which was brought back from Martinique in 1802. It was built in the Italian gothic style of limestone quarried at Picadilly Street in Port of Spain and cost some £90,000 altogether. It was equipped with an iron ball on a flag post, which fell precisely at midday Greenwich mean time. It contained a residence for the head of the force as well as quarters for the volunteer fire brigade and the volunteer corps. At one time, the stipendiary magistrate of Port of Spain held his daily court here.

On July 27th, 1990 there was an attempted coup on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. Led by Abu Bakr and the Jamaat al Muslimeen they 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. One small group attacked the Police Headquarters, shot the sentry on duty and detonated a bomb which eventually burned the century-old building to the ground (again).

Old Police Headquarters, TT, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, architecture, sketchblog

Old Police Headquarters, Trinidad (Photo taken July 2009)

The building has since then been restored (as seen in photo above) and includes police offices and a Museum of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service.


Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands by Edward E. Crain

National Library & Information Systems (Trinidad & Tobago)

Radical Caribbean: From Black Power to Abu Bakr by Brian Meeks

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Old Public Library, 1901, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

Old Public Library in Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a sketch of the Old Public Library in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the first national library. It was established in 1851 under Lord Harris (Trinidad’s governor from 1846 to 1854) who was instrumental in creating the public library system. In 1902, the library was moved to this site on the corner of Pembroke Street and Knox Street which was in fact a former ‘Government House’ in that it was lived in by Col. Fullerton, one of the commissioners to Trinidad. Constructed of yellow sand bricks, it was built with an arcade on the second story providing shaded passageways for both the upper and lower levels of the library, not to mention allowing cool breezes. The building’s main entrance faces Woodford Square, and the library is now located in the “new” National Library across Woodford Square. Beside the Old Library is City Hall and the Hall of Justice.

Reference: The Angostura Historical Digest of Trinidad & Tobago by Gerard A. Besson

Read more on the history of the Trinidad Public Library below:

The Trinidad Public Library was inaugurated in 1851, and although it was not until the 1940s that it first began to respond formally and directly to the educational needs of children, it was not irrelevant to the development of an educated middle class. The first impact of the library on the schools was indirectly through its usefulness to the small core of studious black and coloured teachers in Port of Spain in the later nineteenth century who taught themselves various subjects beyond the level of their formal schooling. These persons were part of what the librarian in 1890 called the “young men of a most deserving class who come to the rooms upstairs for the purpose of studying and to consult works of reference”. Persons studying locally for any examination not covered by the schools, such as the solicitors’ examination, fell into this category. The public library therefore was, like QRC and CIC, part of the expanding educational facilities of the later nineteenth century.

The fragmentary nature of the library’s history has so far inhibited attempts to understand it sociologically. As an institution having its origins in the Port of Spain Borough Council it might be useful to regard it as a creole creation, despite Lord Harris’s prudent swiftness in putting the stamp of English officialdom upon it by an Ordinance. In its fledgling years Chief Justice George Knox gave it 59 volumes; Alexander Fitzjames, the first coloured lawyer, donated 105 volumes of the Journal of the House of Commons; Thomas Hinde, a coloured spokesman of Port of Spain bequeathed his entire library to the public library.This attribution of a creole character to it does not mean that Englishmen were unconnected with its management, but that the creole intelligentsia of Port of Spain, white and non-white, soon felt committed to its defence. This spirit of creole pride, married to a municipal sense of jurisdiction over and against the encroachments of the central government, appears to have been the key to its survival as an autonomous institution well into the twentieth century, even after a rival central library system was started.

The Young Colonials: A Social History of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, 1834-1939 by Carl C. Campbell

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City Hall - Port of Spain, Trinidad, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

City Hall - Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a sketch of City Hall, in Port of Spain, Trinidad which flanks the northern edge of Woodford Square. The building is of a modern style. Read below (and click the reference link) for some more information on my mentor Colin Laird, and modern architecture in Trinidad & Tobago.

“THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE of Port of Spain can be seen to have evolved in four distinct phases: 1900–1938, 1939–1961, 1962–1980 and 1981 to the present. Laird and Lewis were independently active after World War II and demonstrate the two primary tendencies which informed architectural production during this period. These influences revealed themselves through, on the one hand, an exported postwar British architectural culture––‘tropical modernism.’ This was a form of modernism derived from the functional, formal and programmatic tenets of mid century European modernism, modified by an interest and concern with the climatic conditions imposed by tropical climates.”

From Modern Trinidad outlined and the Works of Colin Laird & Anthony Lewis by Mark Raymond

[Update: I updated my cartoon posted on Saturday. After I posted it, it was bothering me that I left an important part of the cartoon out… the chair]. Feel free to look at it again >>>.

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the red house, trinidad and tobago, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

The Red House (Seat of Parliament) - Trinidad & Tobago

This is a very quick, small sketch I did of the seat of Parliament (The Red House) in Trinidad & Tobago, cropped from my Woodford Square post. The Red House was destroyed by fire in the Water Riots of 1903 with the old Red House being completely burnt down, and much of our recorded history being lost forever. After the water riots, the Red House was rebuilt to its present state completed in 1907. Construction and design were done by D.M. Hahn, who at the time was Chief Draftsman of the Public Works, at a cost of over $200,000.

Here is a bit more about the Red House from the Parliament website:

The Red House
In the year 1808, Port-of-Spain was destroyed by fire. At that time, it was a sprawling town of wood and shingle, which had grown tremendously during the previous twenty-five years. As a result of this disastrous fire, Government brought in legislation with regard to building regulations, and for this reason the new government buildings, all of which had been destroyed by the fire, were built of brick.

Foundation Laid
On the 15th February, 1844 the Governor, Sir Henry McLeod, laid the foundation stone for a new block of government buildings, on a site on the west side of Brunswick Square (now Woodford Square). The land belonged to a group of eight persons. The architect was Mr. Richard Bridgens, Superintendent of Public Works, while the buildings comprising two main blocks, north and south, were to be connected by a double archway, much as the Red House of today, but on a smaller scale. The double archway was a feature required by the City Council to keep Prince Street open, as the building was built over it, with the stipulation that it should never be closed to the public, and through which pedestrians and wheeled traffic passed freely. Though incomplete, the southern wing, containing the law courts, was opened in 1848 and a month later the Council Chamber was formerly inaugurated with much ceremony by Lord Harris, after an impressive ceremony in Trinity Cathedral.

To quote from the Port-of-Spain Gazette of 1892:

“Nothing further had been done to complete the buildings since their erection some fifty years ago. The only attempt to relieve the monotony of the whole is to be seen in the arching of the carriageway through the courtyard which is a perfect skeleton and, like the ruins of Pompeii, is more suggestive of what the buildings must have been than of what they were intended to be.”

The urgent need for a proper record office arose, and the plans proposed by the Director of Public Works, Mr. J. E. Tanner, showed that two new buildings of two storeys each, were to be erected at the southern corners of the northern building, and two similar structures on the other side of the carriageway, abutting the Court House or southern building. One of these was to become the office of the Registrar and the other, the Record Office. These and many other additions, alterations and ornamentations were carried out at a cost of £15,000.

1903 Fire
In 1897, as Trinidad was preparing to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the buildings were given a coat of red paint, and the public promptly referred to them thereafter as the Red House. This direct ancestor of our present Red House was burnt to the ground on the 23rd March, 1903, during the Water Riots. On the day of the fire, while the new Ordinance regarding the distribution of and payment for water in the town was being debated in the Legislative Council, a protest meeting was held in Brunswick Square by the Ratepayer’s Association, as there was much public dissatisfaction over certain clauses contained in the Ordinance which increased the water rates. At the end of the meeting, the crowds became noisy and stones were thrown, and all the windows of the Red House were smashed including a stained glass window in the chamber which was erected to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in Trinidad. When a woman was arrested by a policeman, the mob immediately became riotous. Stones were thrown into the Council Chamber and the Members were forced to protect themselves under tables and desks and behind the pillars. Still, the Governor, Sir A.C. Maloney, refused to withdraw the Ordinance. When it became known that the lower storey of the building was on fire, the riot act was read, following which the police opened fire on the crowd. Sixteen people were killed and forty-two injured, and the Red House was completely gutted. After the fire only the shell of the Red House remained.

The Red House - Trinidad & Tobago

The Red House - Trinidad & Tobago

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The work of rebuilding it began the following year, and the Red House, as we know it today, was erected on the same site. It was opened to the public on the 4th February, 1907, by Governor, Sir H.M. Jackson.

The building was designed and built by D. M. Hahn, Chief Draughtsman of the Public Works, at an estimated cost of £7,485. This sum included the “gesso” (plaster-of-paris mixture prepared with glue) work in the Legislative Council Chamber and the Justice Hall, which was estimated at £7,200.

The work was completed in 1906. The ceiling is the most striking feature in the Chamber. It is Wedgewood blue with white gesso work and was the work of Messrs. Jackson & Sons, an English firm.

The decorations were made in England in panels, and shipped to Trinidad in crates.

An Italian craftsman was sent to install the ceiling.

The entablature and dais at the eastern end were also designed by D. M. Hahn. The columns and entablature are made of purple heart wood, while the panelling is fustic (yellow tinted wood commonly found in South America). The passageway between the two buildings which replaced the double archway, is no longer open to vehicular traffic. The fountain in the centre of the rotunda was designed by D. M. Hahn as a means of cooling and ventilation for the offices, in the days before air-conditioning. The offices of the early Red House, with the exception of the Governor’s office and that of the Colonial Secretary, comprised offices for the Attorney-General, Registrar-General Lands & Surveys Department, Judges’ Chambers, the Courts of Justice and the Parliament and Law Libraries, as well as the Legislative Council Chamber, which is now the Parliament Chamber. At present, the building is being restored for the exclusive use of the Parliament.

The Red House today is the second Government building to be known by this name since the newly-constructed government offices were built on the same site and given the same name. The name Brunswick Square was changed to Woodford Square during World War I in 1914-1918. The rubble which was removed after the fire was used as landfill for Victoria and Harris Squares; so when you stroll through these public squares you may literally be walking on the history of the Red House.

Adapted from Mavrogodato, O.,The Red House in Voices in the Street

1990 to Present

On Friday July 27, 1990 at 6:05 p.m., armed gunmen stormed the Parliament Chamber where the House of Representatives was in session, taking the then Prime Minister, eight of his Cabinet Ministers and six other Members of Parliament hostage.

The Red House suffered gravely from this invasion since the building was shot at and even shelled. In the aftermath, bullet holes were visible on walls, doors, windows and the ceiling of the Chamber. There was a gaping hole at the southern end of the building on the ground floor, made by a B-300 weapon fired on the night of July 28.

Seven people were killed in the Red House as a result of the attack on the building

Clean-up efforts began after the six-day siege was over. For weeks after the litter, shattered glass, stained carpets and bloodstains were removed, a stench of death and a sense of tragedy remained.

The clean-up and restoration work was divided into three phases:

  1. the first phase was centered on the southern end of the Red House, where the former Supreme Court was housed;
  2. the second phase included the repainting and refurbishing of the building’s exterior and of the northern Chamber, and
  3. the third phase, which has not yet been completed is to include the complete restoration of the entire building. Along with these many changes came the closure of the pedestrian path through the Red House.

Eternal Flame
As a temporary measure, sittings of both the Lower and Upper Houses (two each) were held at the Auditorium of the Central Bank, but with the opening of the Fifth Session of the Third Parliament on November 5, 1990, sittings were once again held in the Red House, not at its customary place, but at the southern Chamber. It was not until July 26, 1991, that the traditional Chamber was restored to its original status, and Parliament reconvened in that Chamber with a rededication and memorial service, in which a commemorative plaque bearing the names of all those killed in and around the Red House, was unveiled. An eternal flame, symbolising “the need to be ever-vigilant in the protection of our democracy” was also lit outside. It stands, up to this day, atop the marble cenotaph on the eastern lawn and on which is inscribed the Oath of Allegiance of Members of Parliament, the National Anthem, the Affirmation of the People and the names of the victims of the attempted coup.

Have a creative day today!

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woodford square, trinidad, port of spain, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

Visual Survey of Woodford Square – Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a quick visual survey/ sketch I did while standing in the historic Woodford Square in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

“Woodford Square (initially named Brunswick Square) was initially laid out in 1803, and squared off into a place for recreation. It was laid out with geometric walkways lined with rare trees from Venezuela, planned as a large, open public gathering space…the square, enclosed by a high wrought iron fence provides pleasant shading in the town center… It was appropriately dubbed “the University of Woodford Square” by Dr. Eric Williams, when he sought to educate the masses, holding regular meeting to lecture to people the affairs of the government. It is a tropical garden. Surrounding Woodford Square are various governmental and civic buildings as shown in the sketch above. The Red House (seat of Parliament) which is French Renaissance in character, the Old Fire Brigade Headquarters/ National Library, the Public Library (1906), the Hall of Justice, Holy Trinity Cathedral – gothic revival church.”Reference: An Urban History of Port of Spain by Yvonne R. Dickman

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Link to 2011 Thinking Insomniac Calendars >>>

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