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Sad state of historic Front Street building

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A 1960 snapshot shows 77-81 Front Street when it was the J.B. Astwood Building (Photograph supplied by the Bermuda National Trust)

The predawn fire on Thursday that gutted businesses on a section of Front Street also deprived Hamilton of a vintage historic building.

The city lost one of two Georgian era buildings, which was one of Front Street’s first three-storey edifices covering a 50ft lot, according to the Bermuda National Trust.

In a statement, the Trust said it was “extremely saddened” at the destruction of 77-81 Front Street.

“Our thoughts go out to all the owners, occupants and users affected,” added Dorcas Roberts, the director of preservation.

“Nearing 200 years old, it was built in 1821 as residences on the upper floors with stores and shops on the ground floor.

“When built, it would have been quite different to all the other buildings on the street, as it did not have a veranda and also due to its plain architectural features, typical of the Georgian style.”

Largely wooden, it was home to Thomas J. Tucker, a merchant; in the late 19th century, its upper storeys were leased to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, which moved to Albuoy’s Point in 1933. Later businesses included the J.B. Astwood cycle store and J. Howard Cooper’s provision store.

Its reliance on wood ultimately fuelled its undoing, as fire tore through the structure for hours until firefighters quelled the blaze.

A picture of the historic Front Street property taken from Robin Trimingham's history of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, "Under the Calabash Tree" (Photograph supplied by the Bermuda National Trust)