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Curb joins growing campaign to save historic house

Wantley, on Princess Street, North Hamilton (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An antiracism group today pledged its support for the preservation of a historic building in North Hamilton earmarked for demolition.

Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda said it was “disturbed to hear of the plans to demolish one of the last unique pieces of Black Bermudian architecture, culture and history, Wantley House on Princess Street”.

The Victoria-era home of Samuel David Robinson, a Black Bermudian businessman, was the venue for the first meeting in 1879 of the founders of the Berkeley Institute.

Wantley, now owned by the Bermuda Housing Corporation, has become derelict and has suffered damage, including fire damage, from squatters.

The BHC obtained a demolition order in March, with plans to rebuild the house rather than restore it and highlighted the high cost of restoration.

But the Ministry of Public Works said last night that Wantley’s location in an area designated as historic meant that the BHC would have to obtain special approval from the Department of Planning before the building could be torn down.

Curb said it was a “beautiful building, recognised as one of the finest buildings in Hamilton, with a fascinating history”.

Wantley, created by Black Bermudian craftsmen, has distinctive features such as an ornate veranda and keystones above its windows.

Curb said the house was “of significant architectural, cultural and social importance to African Bermudian life in the 19th and 20th centuries and should be saved for the long-term enjoyment and appreciation by the people of Bermuda”.

A spokesman added: “That the house has been sadly neglected for some time demonstrates again the failure to understand the importance of preserving our heritage and the need to consult with the community before such dire actions are taken.”

The group highlighted the levelling of the Tucker’s Town free Black cemetery in St George’s, as well as “the extensive renovations of Lane School on East Broadway, which now no longer bears any resemblance to the historic tiny chapel and Black school built immediately after emancipation” as examples of a lack of care for history.

Curb said it would “collaborate and work with groups and organisations to do the work necessary to save this important building” and that the BHC might be open to suggestions for restoration.

The group added it had contacted the BHC and planned to meet representatives of the quango.

Curb thanked Maxine Esdaille, a historian, who raised concerns over the demolition plans this week and contacted the Bermuda National Trust.

The group also appealed to the public to call for the preservation of Wantley by e-mail to the BHC at info@bhc.bm or Curb at admin@uprootingracism.org.

To read the Curb statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published June 11, 2021 at 1:37 pm (Updated June 14, 2021 at 12:36 pm)

Curb joins growing campaign to save historic house

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