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$63M Gingerbread House

BY ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, February 16 2008

click on pic to zoom in
the Boissiere House has been put up for sale. Asking price: $63 million...
the Boissiere House has been put up for sale. Asking price: $63 million...

WANT to buy a “one of a kind landmark”?

Been itching to get your hands on the 104-year-old “Gingerbread House” around the Queen’s Park Savannah? Now’s your chance. The historic property at 12 Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain, has been listed for sale on the American website craiglist.org for an asking price of US$10 million (TT$63 million).

“One of a kind landmark property for sale in Trinidad aka “The Gingerbread House,” located on the same row of the Magnificent Seven and most centrally located across the street from the most popular and well known Queen’s Park Savannah,” reads the entry on Caribbean craigslist.org. It continues, “this is a one of a kind property that you will want in your family for generations!”

The 3,100 square foot house, which is also known as the Boissiere House, features gesso ceilings, done “by the Italian craftsman who did the ceilings in the Stollmeyer’s house and the Council Chamber of the Red House”, according to the entry. It has been put up for sale by Lifetime Realty.

The house, complete with wine cellar and attic, is currently unoccupied and is not regarded as part of the Magnificent Seven. It is also not listed as a legally protected property.

Yesterday, architects and conservationists warned that this country is at risk of losing an important part of our heritage.

“The building is unique in that while we have other gingerbread houses this one is different,” noted architect Rudlynne Roberts, a member of the Citizens for Conservation lobby group. Roberts noted that the building was unique because of its distinctive pagoda, its craftsmanship, and its unique fretwork.

“On top of that it is a landmark....This building has been associated with Port-of-Spain in the public and in the international eye for many years. The worth of the building is in its architecture. Its method of construction, design and layout tells us how people lived during that time. It is an architectural gem.”

Newsday understands that The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago is in the process of drawing up a dossier — penned by renowned architect Colin Laird — to be submitted to the Government, recommending that the State buy the property for conservation purposes.

“Any private buyer willing to pay that ($63 million) will almost certainly bulldoze it and build an office block or posh condominiums to recoup their investment,” warns blogger and editor Nicholas Laughlin, in an e-mail currently circulating on the internet. “There seems to be only one realistic option: persuade the government that the Boissiere House is a crucial and irreplaceable part of our national heritage, that it must be bought by the state, restored, and put to appropriate public use,” Laughlin implores.

A special website, with a petition for those wishing to lobby the Government to purchase the property, will soon be online at http://www.saveboissierehouse.org/. Architect Sean Leonard is also in the process of planning a discussion forum on the issue at the local contemporary arts space Alice Yard in the coming weeks.

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