Hon. Gregory Bowen
Minister of Communication, Works & Physical Development
Ministry of Works – Ministerial Complex
Tanteen – St. George’s
February 24th, 2014
Pronouncement re demolition of York House,
It was with grave consternation if not alarm, that on the evening of Tuesday February 18, 2014 almost ten years after Hurricane Ivan, you made a pronouncement on one of the evening newscast that York House was structurally unsafe and it would not be cost effective to spend funds on its repair/ restoration, or words to that effect.
York House is one of Grenada’s premier architectural heritage building, it was constructed about 1700 in an ornate Georgian style, and like the Greco Roman PBC, the St. Joseph Convent and mother Rose School, the Registry, the old Methodist House, now a law office, Cathedral House, St. George’s Cathedral, the Anglican church, Priory House, the St. George’s Senior Anglican School, the Sedan Chair porches buildings, all on Church Street – combine in providing an urban character which contribute significantly in St. George’s becoming a unique Caribbean Town Site.
This urban quality has long been recognised by the Georgian Society of the United Kingdom, our regional institutions like the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in its report entitled: “Grenada Macro – Socio – Economic Assessment on the damages caused by Hurricane Ivan”, dated September 19, 2004. Relevant extract attached, and the Organisation of America States (OAS), who in 1988 declared St. Georges “a monument of the wider Caribbean,” and the call in recent times that the powers that-be should endeavour to have our capital city on the list of UNESCO’s Heritage sites, like Bridgetown, Barbados, which in our view does not compare with St. George’s.
Sad to say the rhetoric has prevailed, and the powers that-be appear either not capable of recognising the economic potential of our cultural heritage or is not interested in reconstructing our history and built heritage as a political imperative, as part of a national development strategy as is done in all first world countries, the position of the Minister of Tourism & Culture would be instructive in this regard.
While we do not want to use this medium to castigate a certain professional body, it has however become a routine practice by persons in that profession to first declare historic buildings structurally unsafe, then recommend their demolition, which is then accepted by the Physical Planning Unit (PPU) as the basis for granting their destruction.
The fact of the matter is that persons in that profession in Grenada do not possess the expertise to restore historic buildings which is routinely done in all first world countries, together with the lack of aesthetic and historic parameters serving as a guide to the Planning Authority, which does not help in this regard.
The Willie Redhead Foundation takes this opportunity to respectfully request Hon. Minister that you revisit your decision, and consider the restoration of York House as a national heritage site, which it is.
In this regard the Foundation would be willing to offer its expertise in working with your Ministry in achieving this objective as a national project in enhancing the Tourism Product and in the quest to have our Capital City placed on the UNESCO heritage list in the shortest possible time.
The Foundation sends its best regards and awaits your early consideration and positive response.
The Willie Redhead Foundation