Historic buildings demolished in clean-up campaign

(Trinidad Express) Everyone wanted the historic buildings in Sangre Grande to be saved and restored, but not a single person offered a cent to make it happen despite years of talk, said regional corporation chairman Terry Rondon.

And it is for this reason, said Rondon, the backhoes moved in on Saturday and took apart the old fire station, and the building that once housed the warden’s office and courthouse.

Aldo demolished was the old post office in the village of Comparo, Manzanilla.

The buildings, which Citizens for Conservation says date between 1898 and 1909, were taken down as part of the National Clean-Up Campaign being overseen by Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein. A video showing the demolition in progress was posted of Hosein’s Facebook page.

However, Hosein told the Express he would never demolish an old building without careful consideration.

He said the old warden’s office was a nest for criminals and the base for illegal activity.

Hosein said each regional corporation was responsible for clean-up campaigns in their district. And chairmen and councillors were expected to have consultations on which buildings were to be demolished.

“We liaised with someone who identified an old post office for a heritage site. However, in the case of this building I understand it could not be restored. It was a place where illegal activities have been taking place,” he said.

Hosein said in the past skeletal remains were also found on site.

Hosein reminded citizens that he was involved in the establishment of the San Fernando Heritage Trust while mayor of the city, and would not demolish old buildings without proper consultation.

However, heritage groups mourned the loss of the buildings over the weekend, with some questioning why the State would have allowed demolitions to go forward while efforts were being made to have the sites listed by the National Trust, which would have given them legal protection.

The attempt to save the buildings located on State property involved representatives from the National Trust, Citizens for Conservation and the group Concerned Citizens of Sangre Grande.

They were able to save the old post office, but were told that the old fire station, and the building housing the warden’s office and courthouse were structurally unsound and of little historical value.

As far as Rondon is concerned, the buildings should have been gone long ago.

“As a son of the soil, I would not have allowed this to take place. It was not an easy thing to take down these buildings which were landmarks. But it was also a joy for me to take it down because they were eyesores and with it gone, it has improved the sanitation in the town”.

Rondon said: “As a councillor I tried my utmost best to get the buildings restored. Nobody took me on. Not one person came forward to give one penny to assist. If they (stakeholders) had come and offered to have a fund raising in order to save the buildings, I would have listened. But they wanted the Sangre Grande corporation to do everything. They were not being realistic”.

The rubble of the old warden’s office in Sangre Grande, demolished on Saturday. Source: Citizens for Conservation Facebook

Rondon said that the warden’s office had been vacant for 15 years.

“We had drug dealers, death, the homeless there. The police (the station is located next door) had to set up a security camera to guard themselves. They complained about the rodents and the smell”.

Rondon said that when the warden’s office was demolished, the contractor told him that human bones were found. The police said no one reported any such discovery.

As for the old fire station building, Rondon said it was overrun by rodents, and despite an attempt to fence it, the homeless moved in. He said that another problem in the town was the stagnant water breeding mosquitoes in the depression that was once the turn-table mechanism for the Trinidad Government Railways locomotives.

“I could be criticised for what I did” he said, “but I feeling real good”.

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