Government House poised to become important historic attraction

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Government House poised to become an important historic attraction

The grounds of Government House are currently undergoing a major metamorphosis as restoration work on the over 200-year-old historical landmark continues.

The 2-acre property is being transformed into a cultural heritage site, managed by The Heritage Trust Antigua and Barbuda (HTAB) Inc.

Following an intense tendering and selection process, C G Construction M W Pro Design and Homes That Last was awarded the contract to continue the restoration of the outer buildings and main structure. Now in its second phase, the project is slated for a West Wing completion by May 2024. It is guided by a Master Plan that was developed by HTAB Director Gabrielle Howell.

Restoration work on the entire property is targeted for an extremely ambitious December 2024 wind up — (the project is totally dependent upon donations and grants for its execution) — and its overall objective is to provide a unique experience for both locals and visitors alike, giving them the opportunity to explore the site and appreciate the rich history of both Government House and its environs.

The newly renovated “West Wing”, the oldest known surviving slave quarters in the Eastern Caribbean, comprises a small conference and event room, a souvenir/gift shop, café, restaurant, toilets and art gallery- cum-museum space.

The art gallery will showcase over 50 pieces of repurposed paintings that originally adorned the walls of the two-plus centuries old building.

Included in the inventory is a collection of Royal Portraits of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, King George V and Queen Mary.  This gallery will also host the Parham Hill House art collection.

The cultural hub will offer tours for students, residents and visitors to view both permanent displays and temporary exhibitions — and will continue to house the official office of the Governor General.

The third phase of the project will cover content generation, and as a precursor to this, a review of Government House’s sovereign paintings was recently completed by international art experts.

The restoration of the main house is also a crucial next step. The tendering process has been completed for this work, with the contracts awarded to CG Construction MW Pro Design.

The Museum of London Docklands will be engaged in the curation of the museum, and two representatives from this establishment will be travelling to Antigua and Barbuda this month in order to commence work.

Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams noted that the HTAB was committed to sourcing a further $2.3 million US dollars to meet the immediate goals of the project.  He added that meticulous strategic planning by the Board has allowed for self-sustainability, which will guarantee the upkeep of future operations.

Government House was included on the World Monuments Worldwide Watchlist of 2018, globally earmarking this building as one of the special properties deserving of preservation. In 2016, Government House had also been registered as a LEED project for that particular year.

About the Government House Restoration Initiative:

Since 2015, Sir Rodney and Lady Williams have set out on a mission to preserve this historical landmark.   The initial study was undertaken by the Barbados Museum and Kevin Farmer, with the assistance of Sir Hillary Beckles and The University of the West Indies. Additionally, a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) was prepared upon recommendation by Donald Insall Associates. Phase 1 of the project was launched by Prince Harry in 2016 and incorporated the skills (either voluntary or contracted) of architects, lecturers and trainers, landscape and interior designers, archaeologists from renowned tertiary institutions and local contractors.  (The list of project specialists includes Preservation Green LLC; Challengers Construction; Archiworks Designs; Caribbean Aqua Systems; Wally Jackson; Charmaine Werth; Dr.Reg Murphy; Dr.Chris Walters; Ambassador Dorbrene O’Marde; Mr. Johnson Brown; Vashti Ramsey; King Franki; Jules Walter; Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia and Dr. Jonathan Fowler; St. Mary’s College in Maryland along with Dr. Steve Lenik – Archaeologist;  Christopher Ohrstrom; Blondell Cluff and the West India Committee (UK); Philip Davies and the Commonwealth Heritage Forum (technical assistance); the Barbados Museum and Historical Society’s Alissandra Cummins; Dr. Julia King; Alexandra de Valmarana of Italy and Dr. Ed Chappell and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. ) The emphasis in the first phase was placed upon the design and structural rebuilding and outfitting of the burnt-out slave quarters, as well as the upgrading of the main house kitchen.

To date, a number of companies and individuals have financially contributed to this extensive and costly initiative, including the Calvin Ayre Foundation, Caribbean Alliance Insurance, the Linbury Trust (UK), Ann Chapman-Daniel, the Hadeed Group of Companies, World Monument Fund (John Darlington), Mill Reef Club, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Yorie Pigott of ASA, Antigua and Barbuda Permanent Mission to the UN (Ambassador Webson) and Sir Martin Franklin — all making monetary contributions towards this significant national endeavour. Members of the Antigua and Barbuda public have also donated in small amounts.

A major point of focus is training and education, with His Majesty’s prison previously involved in various training workshops and on-site implementation. ‘

The Prince’s Foundation, a charitable entity established in the United Kingdom in 1986 by King Charles lll, also tutored 2 Antiguans and Barbudans in restoration skills (2018) in London.

About the Heritage Trust of Antigua and Barbuda:

The HTAB is a non-profit entity managed by a Board of Directors. It is headed by His Excellency Governor General of Antigua & Barbuda, Sir Rodney Williams. After its appointment in June of 2023, the voluntary board — comprised of Her Excellency Lady Williams, Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill, Sir David Harrison, Mrs. Janey Henderson-Howell, Ms. Gabriella Howell, Sen. Hon. Kiz Johnson and Mr. Hendren Parker — has been working tirelessly to advance this initiative and to propel towards its timely completion.

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