National Trust lists 16 more heritage sites

The National Trust has added 16 new properties to its listing of heritage properties. These properties are now entitled to legal protection under Section 8 of the National Trust Act.

The newly listed properties are Lopinot House, the Port of Spain Old Railway Station (PTSC Compound), George Brown House, President’s House, the Five Islands (Caledonia, Pelican, Lenagan, Rock, and Craig), Woodford Square, Carnegie Free Library, Naipaul House, the Cabildo Building, Our Lady of Montserrat RC Church, Knowsley, and the St James Police Barracks.

Speaking at the heritage listing ceremony at the trusts's headquarters at Mille Fleurs, Port of Spain, on Wednesday, Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles congratulated the property owners and caretakers.

“It is well recognised and documented that you are counted among the fortunate few who have fulfilled your roles as proud guardians, custodians, and defenders of the architecture and masterpiece structures that have become historical and defining monuments to our tangible heritage. Now more than ever, we in TT seize the opportunity to recall, to recreate and redefine the historical significance of our heritage places and spaces.”

She said the listing of these 16 sites brought to 59 the number of properties of interest listed and legally protected by the state. She said government intended to increase that number to ensure the nation’s heritage is preserved for future generations.

“I believe that listing our heritage sites can give our nation a sense of ownership and belonging, confidence and cultural pride, including adding to the heritage economy.

"If executed in the right way, the business of heritage can become a self-sustaining industry. The social and economic implications of a heritage economy are boundless, with enormous potential for job creation, tourism development and investment climate enhancement. Spillover effects can also be felt in science, education and technology, and can promote social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and exchange in our ethnically diverse nation.”

Beckles said a heritage tax allowance programme would soon be introduced to encourage corporate support of heritage conservation projects.

National Trust chairman Margaret McDowall said there were 400 sites on the trust’s heritage asset inventory. She said the process of moving a property from the inventory to being listed was a long one.

“We look for buildings and properties which are symbols of TT’s culture and heritage and create a dossier which is scrutinised by our Landmarks Committee, then sent to our legal people, who pick up issues that need to be addressed, and then it is sent to the minister, who will have more questions about why this property was chosen.”

McDowall said while there were different categories of listing, these were not hierarchical. There are four grades of protection for buildings and six grades of protection for property and artifacts.

“It describes what you can and can’t do with the building or property, with Grade 1 being the most restrictive. It’s about continuous maintenance and support.”

Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said he was pleased at the listing of Woodford Square, and now the square has been listed as a heritage site, there will be no choice but to complete the renovation of the fountain quickly. He said another fountain will be renovated in 2023.

Port of Spain has many historical buildings which can become tourist attractions as in other cities around the world, he said, especially in light of cruise ships returning to Trinidad and Tobago’s shores.

Representatives of the owners and caretakers were presented with their listings, and McDowall told them they would receive a soft copy of their dossiers.