Heritage at Risk – No Way To Treat A National Monument

No Way To Treat A National Monument

York House

House House pre Hurricane Ivan

It has been almost seven years since Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada and astonishingly many of our country’s important historic monuments remain in disrepair.

In many cases, the damage inflicted by Ivan and Emily (the following year) on these important sites have been compounded by neglect on the part of the government and private owners.

Significant among the many buildings threatened are York House and Government House. Unfortunately, the cost of restoration for these important historic Grenadian heritage sites have increased since 2004 largely because simple steps, such as decking open roofs, were not taken.

York House suffered roof damages from Ivan and Emily but the interior of the building was left to incur further damage from weather elements. Had the interior of the building been immediately protected, the amount of work needed to return the building to full functionality would have been contained primarily to restoration of the roofing system.

As with the Anglican Church, the hurricane dislodged the rafters, but many of the rafters were not damaged. Those that were damaged were repairable for reuse.

York House - post Ivan

York House Today

This point is important because re-use of as much of the previous material obviously would mean a cost savings for the rebuilding process.

It is easy to see from the outside (pictured above) that it appears the hurricanes had only a limited affected on the standing walls of York house. If this is indeed so and the standing walls were structurally sound, then steps should have been taken to rebuild the rafters soon after the hurricane. And of course, strengthening their ability to withstand similar hurricane conditions should have occurred. If this had happened, on-going damage to York House would have been mitigated and arrested by the installation temporary roofing.

In the pantheon of important heritage sites in Grenada, York House is among the most significant, if not the most significant. So it is a national shame that such a symbolic structure has been allowed to languish in disrepair for so long.

The placement of high importance in the preservation of culture and heritage by Grenadians and the Grenadian government must be questioned, when one witnesses the neglect of monuments like York House and similar significant heritage sites – neglect that, in some instances, preceded hurricane Ivan.

After World War II, Germany understood that it could not allow the war to define the country and its culture. As a result, Germany went about rebuilding towns like Rottenberg ob Der Tauber and town centers like Roemer Platz in Frankfurt, to exacting detail of what they were before destruction by the war, to ensure that their rich history was not lost and would be carried forward to succeeding generations.

Consequently, the investment the Germans made to restore damaged towns and monuments have returned dividends to Germany’s economy. Today, these restored monuments are key to, and feature prominently in, the country’s tourism strategy.

By allowing a significant place like York House to incur damages beyond that caused by Hurricane Ivan, Grenada runs the risk of the storm defining its history and heritage. Six and a half years after Ivan, the slow pace of restoration to preeminent structures like York House hurts Grenada’s ability to leverage one of it key assets in distinguishing itself from all Caribbean islands competing for tourists. This dilution in the strength of the Grenadian tourism product invariably affects the country’s economy, given its considerable size in the Gross Domestic Product.

Restoration of iconic structures like York House by Grenada’s government is an investment in Grenada. In the short term it may appear that there is mutual exclusivity between fixing roads or building housing and repairing historic structures. But in the long term, all are of equal importance to the sustainable of Grenada.

The overall positive impact of the repair and restoration of these treasured national symbols should not be underestimated – not only for the significant sustainable employment opportunities and economic activity that will be generated but also for its therapeutic effect on national psyche and pride (as has been noted with the repairs and restoration of the two historic churches so far in St. George’s – Methodist and Roman Catholic Church – and the St. John’s Anglican Church in Gouyave.

The repair and restoration of York House, and other heritage monuments , must be moved to a higher level of priority in Grenada. This is not a luxury. It is an imperative.

 

WE NEED ACTION – Help Restore Grenada’s Major Landmarks

The Willie Redhead Foundation (tWRF) begun a project back in 2008 to raise funds to assist with the restoration of four of Grenada’s historic churches in St. George’s which were severely damaged by hurricanes Ivan in September 2004 and Emily the following July.  The Foundation is hopeful that it will continue to receive public support for this initiative even in these difficult economic times.

Of the four churches, we are happy to record the successful restoration of two – namely the Methodist on Green Street which was given “Patrimonial recognition” by the award of a tWRF plaque in November 2010.

Cathedral Interior

Interior – Roman Catholic Cathedral

The other is the recent completion of the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Church Street. The two remaining churches that have not yet begun work are the Anglican and the Presbyterian.

The restoration focus has therefore been mainly in the town of St. George but a Project that has recently caught the eye of the Sentinel, is that of another church in Gouyave which was also damaged by hurricane Ivan, namely “the church of St. John the Divine”, generally known as the St. John’s Anglican Church.

A recent visit to the church was both revealing and rewarding. Revealing, in that the mover of the restoration initiative – Rev Junior Ballantyne, appear to understand the relevance and importance of recording/ preserving the history of our built or cultural heritage for posterity.  There was no tinkering with the original design of the building, no trying to improve or out do the original concept through “modernizing” the traditional seating arrangement.  With pains-taking diligence, [they have] executed a heritage restoration project that is the admiration of all who behold it, [and is] in keeping with the teachings of Christ which remain unchanged and unpolluted for over two millennia.

“The church of St. John the Divine” or the Gouyave Anglican Church was built in 1866 which makes it 165 years old. The records however shows that there was a previous church on the site in the “latter part of the eighteenth century, as during the Fedon rebellion of 1795, The Rev. Francis Mc Mahon then Rector of the parish was one of the three who had been captured and not killed”

The restored Anglican Church to the south and the Rectory and Pastoral Centre to the north of the street which bisect the complex, together comprise an impressive urban environment and enhances that part of the town of Gouyave which in the Sentinel’s view could be regarded as aesthetically and ecologically friendly in pursuance of a green environment.

While the restored structure of the church which is easily recognizable from the outside, the inside of the Church is just as impressive, which shows a respect for historicity, while taking advantage of modern technology as exemplified in the sensitive restoration of the wooden roof trusses; the reconstruction of the mezzanine floor for the choir, the delicate restoration of the large stained glass window behind the main altar, the detailed ornate reproduction of the Pulpit and the Lectern, the polished purple-heart pews, the restored marble wall plaques- all combine in producing an atmosphere or ambiance of serenity and spiritual uplift so necessary in a turbulent world, full of stress, violence and confrontation.

The curtilage (surroundings) of the church must not go unmentioned, where the graves of outstanding citizens of the parish are cleaned and repaired, in some cases with the restoration of the inscription of their headstones, providing historic information of great Anglicans, nay Grenadian personalities of the past, and not to be outdone, the apex of the steeple now has a light which provides a beacon to guide fishermen at sea.

The Willie Redhead Foundation through its organ- “the Sentinel”, takes this opportunity to express our delight in the accomplishment of this outstanding heritage project and to say CONGRATULATIONS ARE INDEED IN ORDER to Rev. Ballantyne and the Anglican community of Gouyave and St. John’s as a whole. May the supreme Architect continue to guide you all to greater heights to come.

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