Minister Gadsby-Dolly delivers the Feature Address and the Handing Over Ceremony of Mille Fleurs
August 7, 2020
In 1904, the birth of one of this country’s famous Magnificent Seven buildings took place on this very ground. The Prada family envisioned a Victorian-style cottage with emblematic features such as an asymmetrical design, decorative trim, a tower, three stories, and a steep roof at the entrance. Victorian-style homes of that era were meant to be statement pieces; evoking a sense of royalty. Mille Fleurs, along with six other buildings around the Queen’s Park Savannah, made this the most majestic roundabout of the Caribbean, and possibly the world.
The presence of the Magnificent Seven goes beyond serving as historical relics. They elevate national pride. By adapting their purpose, they can lead to the creation of sustainable arts and cultural endeavours. They foster social inclusion by opening the space and its history, to locals and visitors. They are valuable educational resources, particularly to our cultural community. They also promote civic responsibility, as each citizen sees themselves as proud custodians of these buildings.
In 2016, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago made a concerted effort to restore the capital city’s prized architecture. The Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT) spearheaded this long overdue exercise. Cabinet Minute No. 324 dated March 3rd 2016, signalled the beginning of restorative works to five heritage buildings in Port of Spain; Stollmeyer’s Castle which was completed in April 2018; followed by the Whitehall, completed in August 2019; the President’s House in December 2019; our house of parliament- the Red House, completed in January 2020; and finally, Mille Fleurs, which was completed in June 2020.
As Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, I confess that being a part of the team that these national assets will be one of my life’s greatest honours. Further, being present to hand over some of these buildings for cultural affairs has been a tremendous privilege.
The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has agreed to vest the Mille Fleurs heritage property to The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago, and it will now serve as their Headquarters. This property consists of a tri-level Main Historical Building and an annex referred to as the Mews Building; the latter of which will be converted to an office space for the Trust.
The vision of Mille Fleurs is to be a nucleus for cultural and community events. The Mews Building will be offered as a rental space for meetings by our NGO community. The main house itself will adopt a multi-functional purpose to be used for events, tours, photography sessions and exhibitions. There will be a management office, gift shop, and of course, to live up to the name “A Thousand Flowers”, the National Trust intends to create a spectacular garden with the support of the Horticultural Society, the Orchid Society and Garden Club. The garden will celebrate our rich floral endowment with a vast array of tropical flowers. It is a dream that each one of us should be excited to see materialize.
One’s commute around the Queen’s Park Savannah will forever be changed. No longer will we drive or walk past these majestic structures and observe shuttered windows with signs that they are works-in-progress. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is proud to deliver the restoration of these heritage buildings to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
On behalf of the Honourable Prime Minister, I congratulate the Management and staff of UDECOTT and all contractors involved for restoring these national treasures to their former glory. I wish to express special gratitude to the Havana Historian Office, which conducted an initial assessment to assist in charting a way forward for this restoration. We are grateful for your valuable input.
I certainly hope that the people of Trinidad and Tobago will utilize these buildings responsibly and with a great sense of admiration and national pride.
I thank you.