Lion House. Photo: National Trust
By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE famous Lion House in Chaguanas is in dire need of restoration and the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago (National Trust) is appealing to the private owners of the historic landmark to work together to preserve history.
In a statement issued, the National Trust stated that the building was listed on the Heritage Asset Inventory of the National Trust, which identifies sites that are worthy of national recognition and preservation.
The National Trust stated, “In a statement of March 2019, the National Trust indicated that this property is privately owned and this means that legal permission is required for any other organisation or individual to restore it.
“It also means that The National Trust requires formal permission to access the property to create a dossier on the building, which is one of the prerequisites to Listing as a Property of Interest.”
The Lion House is the only building of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Designed and constructed by the late Pundit Capildeo, between 1924-1926 it is the standing memorial to the indentured Indian immigrants who came to Trinidad between 1845 and 1917.
It was called Anand Bhavan or the Mansion of Bliss and has been many things to many people in its early history. It was a meeting place for many travelers from all over Trinidad who were passing through Chaguanas and an early community centre for the residents of Chaguanas and surrounding areas.
In 1991 the property came under the principal control of attorney Surendranath Capildeo, grandson of Pundit Capildeo. Surendranath made two attempts to restore the building between 1991-1993 and then again in 1995.
The National Trust stated, “It is reported that the firm Colin Laird and Associates was retained to advise and supervise the project which had been contracted to EWAC & Co Limited with Mr Glen Espinet in charge of restoration.
“However, the restoration was incomplete and since then the building has relapsed and deterioration continues.
“The National Trust has once again reached out to the owners of the property to discuss options which may be available to enable its restoration. The National Trust is confident that there are patriotic members of the national community and international diaspora who, with the support of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, would come forward to assist in restoring the house.”
The National Trust added it was committed to providing any expert advice and guidance so that the restoration could be done in an authentic manner.
“Ensuring that the built and natural heritage of our country is preserved for future generations to understand our history is a core mandate of the National Trust. The Lion House is an important part of this national legacy,” the National Trust stated.
And the trust also stated, “ The Trust respects that as a private property, the final decision on the future of Lion House lies with its owners, however given the concern expressed by so many citizens about the iconic Lion House and its rich history, we are hopeful that a way forward can be found to restore this beautiful property and the pride that it inspires in the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Chaguanas Mayor Faaiq Mohammed told AZPNews.com that he agreed the Lion House was a pride in Chaguanas and should be fully restored. He added that he will look into additional information regarding the infrastructure.
And Vishnu Charran, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) said, “Whatever could be done to preserve this heritage site, the authorities should do what they can to preserve the site because it is a world heritage site.”