Trinidad has a wide variety of places to visit
that are of interest either because of their historical, geological or ecological
importance. Below we provide information on some of these places of interest. Clicking on
the place name in the listing will take you directly to the information on that place of
interest. Location information is provided for each place.
At the north eastern tip of Trinidad, east of
Toco, Galera Point is a rocky outcrop where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Thick
beds of quartzitic grits, which are very hard coarsely crystalline rocks, are intercalated
among the schists to form a conspicuous headland. It is said that in the 17th century
Amerindians threw themselves to their deaths from Galera Point rather than be captured by
the Spanish. It is the destination for Orisha devotees, celebrating the Olukun Festival
(Celebration of the Ocean), who on February 21 every year, start their pilgrimage from the
Port of Spain lighthouse. On December 7th 1941, in
the waters off Galera Point, two merchant ships carrying bauxite from Suriname were sunk
by torpedoes from a German U boat.
The Toco lighthouse, built in 1897, stands tall on a promontory
overlooking crashing waves. This lighthouse is a twin in design to the Chacachacare Lighthouse. On the Galera Lighthouse are the letters
VR and J which commemorate the 50th jubilee of Victoria Regina. At certain times the
lighthouse is open and with the permission of the lighthouse keeper you can ascend the
steps. A park and picnic area have been developed around the lighthouse. There are
numerous benches and picnic tables shaded by the spreading branches of almond and sea
grape trees. As a result of the constant northeast trade winds the vegetation like
chaparral is permanently bent to the south west.
The area around Galera Point is also significantly
historically as it is the area of the first English settlement in Trinidad.
In 1632, an English settlement was established in this area under Sir Henry
Colt. At the time Trinidad was a Spanish colony and they forbade other
nations from settling in their islands, so in March 1633, the Spanish
attacked and destroyed the settlement. This area was also the site of the
second English attempt to settle in Trinidad as in 1640 another group
established a settlement in the area. Despite surviving Spanish attacks in
1641 and 1643, the settlement was abandoned in 1645.
Chacachacare Island was named Chacachacare
by the Amerindians and is the westernmost of the Bocas Islands which belong to
Trinidad and Tobago. It lies in the Bocas del Dragón (Dragons' Mouth)
between Trinidad and Venezuela. Originally named El Caracol (the Snail) by
Christopher Columbus because of its shape, at various times Chacachacare has served as a
cotton plantation, a whaling station and a leper colony. Between the period 1777 and 1794,
cotton was the major agricultural export of Trinidad with Chacachacare being the largest
producer. Up until 1810 cotton was still the major crop being produced on the island but a
fall in prices and the boll weevil pest led to a decline in production.
The closeness of the island to Venezuela, being only seven miles from the mainland,
meant that there was frequent movement between Venezuela and Chacachacare, particularly to
the Venezuelan port of Guira. Venezuelan revolutionary Santiago
Mariño who was educated in Port of Spain and whose family lived on Chacachacare, used
the island as a base for his 1813 invasion of Venezuela.
By 1920, several hundred persons lived on Chacachacare, a school had been established
with approximately 60 students and a church existed at La Chapelle Bay. In 1921, the
government decided to establish a leper colony and appropriated all the land, forcing the
inhabitants to leave. All persons with leprosy were required to live at Chacachacare.
These patients were cared for by the Dominican Sisters and from 1945 by the U.S. Sisters
of Mercy. Ten sisters died during their time on the island and are buried in a cemetery at
Marine Bay on Chacachacare. The leprosarium lasted until the last patient left in 1984.
In 1943, part of the island was given to the US armed forces and a battalion of 600 men
was based on the island. They built nine military barracks, installed coastal defense guns
and built a road to the top of the 865-foot (260-meter) main peak. See our article on Former US Army Bases for more information.
This 900 acre island is 10 miles long (15
kilometers) and two miles wide at its widest. It comprises of eight beaches, a light
house, a saltwater pond and dramatic cliffs. At present the island is uninhabited and used
for camping and picnics with the most popular beach
being La Tinta Bay. The island is often visited by
yachts and there is a company that organizes day trips to the island plus water taxis will
transport persons to the island. Chacachacare Island has good anchorage at
Chacachacare Bay and La Tinta Bay on the west side.
If you land at Chapelle Bay there's a leisurely walk to the Salt Pond with lovely views of
the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Paria. The Salt Pond made up of hypersaline water has marshy
fringes which promote the growth of peculiar trees like the campecho - the bread and
One of the attractions on Chacachacare is the Lighthouse, which is
identical to the lighthouse at Galera Point in Toco. The walk to the lighthouse is an uphill
hike along a paved road. It is possible to visit the buildings of the former leper colony
and from Perruquier Bay one takes the road to the Lighthouse and then turns right
immediately on the first bend as the road climbs uphill. The track to the former Leper
colony is narrow and proceeds along the side of the hill.
Various parts of the leper colony are still standing and as you enter Perruquier Bay,
the former doctor's house can been seen on the northern side in Rust Bay while the remains
of the nun's quarters can be seen on the southern side climbing the hills of La Chapelle
These islands which are sometimes referred to simply as the Diego Islands, comprise of
two islets that lie between the Bocas Islands and the Five Islands.
These islands are composed of limestone being the remnants of a reef. They are a mile
west of the Five Islands and directly opposite Point Gourde in Chaguaramas. At the change
of the tides and when the there is a prevailing east wind, the currents between the
islands and Point Gourde is strong.
Kronstadt Island is eleven and three quarter acres and was previously
known as Begorrat Island. During the period 1850 to 1970, limestone was mined from the
island and it was also used as a holiday resort. Today the island is a Wild Life Refuge
and part is used for the processing of barytes for the oil industry.
It is believed that from approximately 1854 to 1875, Carrera Island was used as a
convict depot with the prisoners being used to quarry limestone
on Carrera Island and Kronstadt Island, that was used for road
building.In 1877 construction of a permanent prison was begun
which was completed in 1880. Carrera Island remains
today a prison island.
The Five Islands are a group of actually six small islands lying west of Port of Spain
in the Gulf of Paria. They are also known as Las Cotorras.
Craig Island (Craig and Caledonia are joined by a narrow reef)
These islands are the remnants of a raised reef and composed of limestone.
Nelson Island was used as a stop over poinnt by Amerindians from South America on their
way to trade in Trinidad at Mucurapo. Nelson Island is
however most famous as the disembarkation point and quarantine station for indentured
immigrants to Trinidad and Tobago during the period 1866 to 1917. During this period
2,645 Chinese immigrants and 114,000 Indian immigrants were processed through the island.
It is Trinidad and Tobago's equivalent of Ellis Island in New York. Those who had
contagious diseases were transferred to Lenagan island. The first buildings on Nelson
Island were actually constructed by the British in 1802 using slave labour. The buildings
formed part of a military facility and were the first buildings in Trinidad constructed of
brick and mortar.
During World War I, a gun emplacement was built at the eastern end of the island and a
causeway to Rock Island to the west. In the 1930s Nelson Island was used as a detention
center for prisoners, among them Tubal
Uriah Butler. During the Second Wold War, all persons with Austrian or German
passports, who were mainly refugee Jews,
were interred on the five Islands with the men being kept on Nelson Island and the women
on Caledonia Island. In the 1960's Nelson IIsland was used by the University of the West
Indies as a research station for marine biology. Nelson Island became a detention center
again in 1970 following the Black Power Revolution when 50 Black Power activists were
housed there. The former detention centers are still standing on Nelson Island. The name
Nelson Island actrually arose because at one point the island was owned by a Dr. Neilson
who practised medicine in Port of Spain.
Caledonia Island was an officially designated place for performing marriage ceremonies.
In 1840 Lord Harris spent his honeymoon on the island with his Trinidadian bride. On
November 13th 1957, Dr. Eric Williams (the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago)
married Dr Mayleen Mook Sang on Caledonia island.
In the early 19th century
Rock Island was used as a holiday home. It was first leased to T.F.
Johnston who subsequently sold it to Doctor R. Mercer. Dr. Mercer then gave
the lease as a present to Master Thomas Laughlin. During these times, a
house was built on the island and rented out to the public. By
1888, the island was being used as a quarantine depot for first-class
passengers of ships that may have highly contagious diseases. A flagpole was
placed on the island, which when raised with a yellow flag warned that the
inhabitants had a certifiable contagious disease, which barred public
communication with the island.
Gaspar Grande, also known as Gasparee Island is a mile and a half long by half mile in
width, totaling 129 hectares (319 acres) and reaches a height of 339 feet (103 metres).
The island is approximately three-quarters of a mile south of the Coast Guard station at
Staubles Bay. The island was granted to Gaspar de Percin la Roque in 1783 by Governor
Chacon and over time became known as Gaspar Grande. The island is today primarily a
vacation spot with numerous holiday homes
and its most famous attraction are the Gasparee
Gaspar Grande has had an interesting past and the remnants of its past are other
reasons to visit. During the period 1826 to 1864, the island had a whaling industry with
Point Baleine, located on the western end, being a whaling station. The translation of the
French name "Point Baleine" means whaling point. At the top of the island are
the remnants of a Spanish fort constructed in 1796. During World War I, a 4.7 inch cannon
was installed on the ridge overlooking Point Baleine. During World war II another cannon
was installed on the ridge. At the end of the war, two 6 inch guns replaced the original
4.7 inch cannons. These guns are still present on the island and are a 25 minute walk from
Gasparee is a very dry limestone island with average annual rainfall of under 40
inches. It nevertheless has interesting flora and fauna. On the island can be seen
Saltfishwood and Naked Indian trees along with Silk Cotton and wild Balata trees.
Throughout the island cactus are found. There are a dozen species of lizards including the
Twenty-four hours, Turnip-tailed Gecko and Iguana. There are several species of insect and
fruit eating bats. There is also the Noctilio leporinus (fishing bat) which emerge at dusk
to skim the surface of the water to capture sardines. The bird population includes
Yellow-headed Parrots, Rufous-necked Wood-rails, White-tipped Doves, Golden Orioles,
Tropical Mockingbirds, Palm Tanagers, White-lined Tanagers, Copper-rumped Hummingbirds,
Rufous Night Jars and Pigmy Owls.
On some maps the road to Macqueripe Bay is shown
as the Macqueripe Mail Road and that is because prior to the British conquest, the mail
for Trinidad was landed at Macqueripe Bay, to avoid sailing through the Bocas, and then
brought overland along this road. On the Macqueripe Road can be seen the remains of St Chad's Anglican Church which
was built in 1850 and then rebuilt in 1875 and again rebuilt in 1915. Near to St Chad's is
the former village of Mount Pleasant which was created by the former slaves after
Emancipation. Throughout the village are various trees including mango, coconut,
breadfruit, citrus, sapodilla, banana and avocado. This must indeed have been a pleasant
place with all these fruit bearing trees and the La Cuesa River nearby.
Throughout Chaguaramas can also be seen many of the buildings that were built by the US
Army when Chaguaramas was a military base during World War Two. In particular there are
numerous bunkers that are built into the earth. See our article on Former US Army Bases for more information.
Just off the Western Main Road in Chaguaramas, immediately after the Convention Center
and immediately before the Coastguard heliport lies the Chaguaramas Military History and
Aerospace Museum. Consisting of 12,000 square feet of indoor displays along with outdoor
items and memorials on a 4-acre site, the museum traces the military history of Trinidad.
Beginning with the Amerindians and coming up to the present day, this museum chronicles
both the raids and battles that took place in Trinidad along with the involvement of
Trinidadians in wars that took place in other parts of the world. The use of Trinidad as a
planning or staging area for attacks on other countries is also highlighted.
There is an extensive section devoted to the Conquistadors and the three hundred years
of Spanish rule, culminating in the British capture of the island in 1797. The exhibits
examine the British Colonial period of the Napoleonic Wars and its effect on South America
leading the visitor up to the end of the 19th century, tracing racing the History of
Military affairs on the island. The period of the First World War, through the Second
World War and up to Operation Desert Storm are showcased.
Within the museum are samples of the weapons used in each era and the
uniforms of the various military units. There are artifacts, models, photographs,
documents and vehicles on display. There are articles giving extensive coverage of each
period and personal mementos giving insights into the life and feelings of the
men-at-arms. The coverage is so wide and interesting that it is possible to spend
most of the day reading the articles.
Two of the highlights of a visit to the Chaguaramas Military History
Museum are the recreation of a pirate raid on St Joseph (the
former capital) and the recreation of the trenches of the First World War. As the visitor
walks through these recreations you can almost feel as though you are present in the
The Museum opens daily from 9am to 5pm and can be contacted at 634-4391.
There is a small admission fee.
This museum is located in the Diego Martin Valley which is named after the river that
flows through the valley and was discovered by the Spaniard Don Diego Martin de Baena. The
museum traces the history of the river and as a consequence the history of the valley. In
particular it looks at the history of agriculture in the valley and the diverse races that
were attracted to the valley. On its grounds still exists the original Water Wheel used for grinding sugar cane and some of
the cast-iron kettles used for boiling the sugar. There are numerous photographs showing
the importance of coffee and cocoa to the development of Diego Martin. The museum is at
the northern end of the valley on the Diego Martin Main Road, shortly after the
intersection with St. Lucien Road.
Just across from the River Estate Museum
is probably the only remaining complete water wheel in Trinidad.
Built of cast iron and installed around 1835, this wheel powered the
rollers that crushed the sugar canes from the River Estate lands. The water for turning
the wheel came from the Diego Martin River which flowed nearby. The water wheel at Diego
Martin is the undershot type where the water would flow under the wheel and in striking
the blades at the bottom of the wheel cause the wheel to turn. With many undershot water
wheels a flowing stream was often dammed in order to maintain a steady supply of
water for the mill; the dammed water would form a mill pond.
Today the river still flows nearby and the original walls for the water
retention pond are still standing, with the mill pond now an area for relaxation.
Along the Macqueripe Road in Tucker Valley Chaguaramas is an area that has been
given the name the Bamboo Cathedral. Here towering stands of bamboo gracefully arc over
the roadway to create an area that is almost cathedral in its ambiance. To find this
beautiful gift of nature, one takes the Macqueripe Road and just before the entrance to Macqueripe Beach there is a road on the right (eastern
side) that leads to the cathedral. There is a metal barrier that is usually closed but it
is easy to walk around either side of the barrier. Once around the barrier you are on the
road to the Cathedral. The Bamboo Cathedral has been in existence for over 150 years. Michel Jean Cazabon (b.1813 d.1888), Trinidad's great
nineteenth century artist and National Hero painted several watercolours of this area and
in honour of him the route has been named the Cazabon Trail.
The bamboo arcs over an old road that leads to a satellite tracking station on
the hill overlooking both Tucker Valley and the North Coast. The walk up the hill provides
an opportunity for vigorous exercise in the midst of a pristine natural setting. Some
persons eschew the uphill portion and visit the area simply to stroll with their children
or cycle along the lower portion and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Running
through the area and under the road are some dry river beds (dry for most of the year),
while on either side of the road behind the main bamboo arches there is a mixture of
bamboo and forest trees. Anyone who ventures off the roadway and among the trees is
rewarded by the sights of various birds and can sometimes be especially fortunate to see
the Trinidad Euphonia.
The walk up Morne
Catherine or to use its English name, Mount St Catherine, is a walk through
nature and history. Morne Catherine is the highest peak in the Chaguaramas
area at 539 metres (1,768 feet) and at the peak is a radar installation that
was used by the US Air Force to track the early space missions.
The route to the
top is along an old paved road known as the Cano Ventura Road and you can
walk the entire length or just a part and turn back at any time. One
enjoyable aspect of this walk is that coming back is downhill and easy. You
can ascend this hill at a rapid pace for serious exercise or take a measured
walk with little side trips whenever something catches your eye. Along the
route to the top are several World War II bunkers that are embedded into the
hillside. As you progress along the walk it is possible to see rock outcrops
that include some of the oldest rocks on Trinidad from the Jurassic,
Cretaceous and Miocene periods as well as limestone reef remnants from the
period when this area was under the ocean. There is a stream that descends
the mountain which is visible at various points along the route and at
certain locations it is possible to descend to the stream bed.
The walk up Morne
Catherine takes you through tropical evergreen forest and all around are
specimens of Trinidad's wildlife that are easily seen once you are quiet.
Indeed Mount St. Catherine is a birding hotspot with a wide variety of bird
life. At times it is possible to see Green-rumped Parrotlets (parakeets) at
the very start of the walk, while along the way you may spot Trogons,
Toucans, Turquoise and Blue-headed Tanagers, Blue Dacnis. An interesting
side trip is the trail into Crestt Lands (Center for the Rescue of
Endangered Species of Trinidad and Tobago) that is on a bend on the left and
is reached after approximately 15 minutes walking. This trail is
approximately 0.5 miles long and venturing into this area where the forest
presses closer in can sometimes give you the opportunity to see the Squirrel
Cuckoo and Blue-crowned Motmots and almost always allows you to see a Ruby
Topaz Hummingbird. In the evenings Orange-Winged Parrots are easily visible
overhead. Another highlight of the Morne Catherine area are the monkeys that
roam above in the bamboo and treetops. White-faced Capuchin Monkeys are
sometimes seen in the early morning hours and Howler Monkeys if not seen are
certainly heard in the area.
individuals the most enjoyable aspect of Morne Catherine is at the top,
where apart from exploring the old radar installation there are panoramic
views of Tucker Valley, the Gulf of Paria and the offshore islands, and
Trinidad’s north coast.
to Morne Catherine is easily found as you simply take the second street on
the right after the Chaguaramas Convention Center (just opposite the
Chaguaramas Military History
Museum). There is a gate at the start of the hill that is sometimes
locked to prevent vehicles accessing the route but walkers can simply walk
around the side of the gate.
Many individuals who visit the Diego Martin Valley never realise that the ocean is
literally just around the corner. However the northern end of the valley overlooks the
Caribbean Sea and ships approaching Trinidad from the north can be clearly seen from its
ridges. The Spanish governors recognised the strategic importance of this and established
an observation post on a 741 foot ridge that has come to be called North Post. After the
British capture of Trinidad in 1797 they were concerned about attempts to retake the
island and also about attacks by the French. As a result in 1804, the
British Governor, Brigadier-General Sir Thomas Hislop began creating a series of
fortifications around Trinidad that included Fort Abercromby,
Fort George and on Cumberland Hill. North Post was made into a
signal station, which through the use of flags could send signals to Fort George, which in
turn would relay the message to the officials in Port of Spain. With the passage of time,
the defensive role of North Post subsided and eventually it became the site for a marine
radio installation that allowed ships at sea to communicate with Trinidad. The
communications role of North Post continues to this day with TSTT having an installation
on the site of the original observation post.
In addition to being a place of interest through its historic
significance, North Post provides magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea and the rugged
coastline of our North Coast. During the annual Great Race (powerboat race from Trinidad
to Tobago), crowds gather on the ridge to see the boats as they race along the coast. On a
clear day the island of Grenada can be seen from North Post. This location is also the
start of a hike to Macqueripe. To get to North
Post you proceed along the Diego Martin Main Road, going past the River Estate Museum to the end of the road.
Commanding the heights overlooking St James lies Fort George. Built by the
British in 1804 as part of a series of fortifications that included Fort Abercromby, North Post and
fortifications on Cumberland Hill, Fort George was considered the last major defense
before the Port of Spain Harbour. From its height of 1,200 feet, artillery shells could be
lobbed onto ships attempting to enter Port of Spain Harbour or land at Mucurapo. The
British understood the importance or preventing a landing at Mucarapo as that was their
landing point for their invasion in 1797. Mucurapo was also the landing point for the Spanish conquistador Sedeno in his invasions of Trinidad in 1531. The
British constructed several batteries for their cannon rising up the hill. Today there is
an apartment complex on the hill that is called The Battery as a result. The ordinances
(ammunition) for Fort George were kept at Cocorite during the 1820s and would have
given rise to the name, Powder Magazine, now bestowed on part of the area.
According to the historian, Michael Anthony, the construction of Fort George was
overseen by a Mandingo Muslim, Jonas Mohammed Bath. Before building the fort he had to
construct a road up the hill and it is believed that the present road called Fort George
Road was the route used. When constructed the fort was originally called Fort Vigie and
the name later changed to Fort George in honour of King George III.
Fort George never experienced any military action and ceased to be a military
establishment in 1846. It was then converted into a signal station.
The design of the signal station was done by Prince Kofi Nti, son of King Kofi Calcali of
Ashantee, West Africa. He arrived in Trinidad on July 1, 1881, having become a ward of the
British Government after a war against the Ashantees in 1872 and was assigned to the Works
Department. In 1964 Fort George ceased operating as a signal station.
With cannons framing the entrance driveway and a row of
Royal Palms along the center, the Trinidad
Military Cemetery is peaceful and quiet giving true meaning to the term Rest
in Peace. Located in the St. James area of Trinidad on Meerut Street, just
off Long Circular Road, the Military Cemetery is between Long Circular Mall
and the Crematorium, immediately before Camp Ogden.
The Military Cemetery was consecrated in 1828 and contains graves from the
1800's to the present time. As would be expected the cemetery contains the
bodies of local military personnel and given that it was created in 1828 it
also has English military personnel as a result of Trinidad's colonization
by England. There are however also English servicemen from World War II and
among them are ALGAR, ROBERT HENLEY, GREGORY, MAURICE WILLIAM, THOMSON,
JAMES and WHITFORD, ALAN. All four died on 25th January 1945 when their
Reliant aircraft crashed in Brasso Seco. American military staff who
were based in Trinidad during World
War II are also buried there. Interestingly there is the tomb of Sergeant
Bispo dos Santos Segundo of the Brazilian Navy who was killed during World
War II. The
Brazilian navy had ships based in Trinidad for escort duty between Trinidad
and Rio de Janeiro during World War 2. There are also three
Australian service men who rest in the cemetery, PLTOFF Alan Arthur Morris,
FLGOFF Geoffrey Thomas Risbey and FLGOFF Jack Walker. At the time of their
death all three Australians were members of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) 53
Squadron, a squadron flying anti-submarine patrols from Trinidad to protect
the eastern seaboard of the United States from German U-boats following the
entry of the United States into the war.
The cemetery opening hours are Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 13:00. The
cemetery is locked at all other times, including weekends.
Out of hours opening can be arranged by contacting Robert Agie of the
Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force well in advance of the intended visit on
Tel: +1868 771 4223 or E-Mail: email@example.com
Located in the Port of Spain suburb of St James is a compound fondly known as The
St James Barracks or more simply as The Barracks. To most people the St James Barracks is
associated with the Police Service as it houses the Police Training School and every
police officer certainly from the 1930s to the present (2008) has attended that
institution in order to join the Police Service.
The St James Barracks however was not always a police institution. Governor Woodford
purchased the land on which The Barracks sits in 1819 for 3,133 pounds. This compound was
constructed between 1824 and 1827, when the British colonial government spent 80,000
pounds to build St James barracks. It was built to house the York and Lancaster Regiment
that had been stationed in Trinidad since the time of the British conquest in 1797. In the
beginning the troops were stationed at the Orange Grove Barracks, which was located in the
area that is now occupied by the Port of Spain General Hospital. In 1827 these troops were
moved to the newly constructed St James Barracks. The compound was named after the
colonial office in London, which at the time was known, as the Court of St James. On 10th
January 1888 at 8.55am in an earthquake that lasted about 40 seconds and was felt
throughout the Caribbean, the structures at the St James Barracks were damaged. For a
short while the troops pitched tents and camped outside. Eventually however repairs were
conducted and the troops returned to the Barracks. In 1890 the York and Lancaster Regiment
departed from Trinidad and The Barracks was handed over to the Trinidad government. The
Police Service then established a training school at the Barracks to train police officers
in the use of firearms. By 1903 the Police Force had moved part of its operations from its
headquarters on St Vincent Street to the St
James Barracks, thus beginning the long association between the Police and this compound.
One of the features of Police life is that the head of the Police Force lived at the
headquarters and so when the police moved to St James Barracks, the residence of the
Commissioner of Police moved to the Barracks.
Today the construction within and around the Barracks does
not allow more than a glimpse of the original buildings. The Commissioners residence
however can be clearly seen and provides a lovely external view of colonial (Georgian)
known as Roxy graces the eastern entrance to the Port of Spain suburb of St
James. The Roxy was constructed by Timothy Roodal and opened in October
1934. The building was primarily constructed as a cinema with a seating
capacity of nine hundred but also served as a theater and concert hall.
Prior to the building of the Queen’s Hall, Roxy Theatre in St James was the
venue for the Music Festival, as it was for many other events that required
the use of a theatre/concert hall, with the first Music Festival being held
at the Roxy. Another historical music festival that was held at Roxy cinema
occurred in the 1950s where Dixieland won the competition, playing 'Agnus
Dei' and outplaying Invaders steel orchestra who played 'In a Monastery
The beauty of
the architecture of the Roxy and what makes the building stand out is its
entrance of double columns of the Corinthian order. In the 1980's the Roxy
ceased to function as a cinema and was sold to Prestige Holdings Inc. and
now houses the largest Pizza Hut branch in the Caribbean. Although it has
been converted to a Pizza restaurant the exterior of the building still
exhibits the beauty of its original creation.
At the corner of Murray Street and Baden-Powell Street in
Woodbrook is a building that serves to remind us that the area known as Woodbrook was not
always the combination residential and commercial area that we know today. Indeed at the
time of the British conquest of Trinidad in 1797, Woodbrook was a sugar cane estate of 367
acres owned by Henry Murray (after whom Murray Street is named).
In 1838 Murray advertised the estate for sale and in 1840 it was bought by
the Scottish company W.F. Burnley of Glasgow. W.F. Burnley & Company went into
liquidation in 1899 and Woodbrook Estate was put up for sale. In 1875 the three Siegert
brothers, Carlos Damaso, Alfredo Cornelio and Luis del Carmen, moved their business, Dr
J.G.B. y Hijo, from the town of Angostura (now Cuidad Bolivar) in Venezuela to Port of
Spain. That business was the manufacture of Angostura Bitters. At the time the business
was prosperous and the Siegert brothers purchased the entire Woodbrook Estate for
£50,000. The Siegert brothers then began to develop the estate as a housing development,
naming many of the streets after themselves and their children. Streets like Alfredo, Ana,
Alberto, Cornelio, Carlos, Gallus, Luis, Petra and Rosalino. Carlos died in 1903 and the
firm passed to Alfredo. Unfortunately Alfredo made many bad investments and in 1911 he was
forced to sell Woodbrook Estate to the Government for £85,000, and also to give his
Angostura share-holding as security for the loans he had incurred. When Alfredo died in
1919, he owned nothing. All his family's wealth had been lost.
The building which now stands at Number 44 Murray Street, at the corner of
Murray and Baden-Powell Street is a reminder of the days when Woodbrook was a sugar cane
estate being converted into a residential area. It has been said that the building was a
tax collection centre for the payment of land taxes. There is some doubt however as to
whether the original intent of the building was for the collection of taxes as the
building was constructed in 1907 when Woodbrook was still owned by the Siegerts. When the
Siegerts began the development, the land was given to prospective homeowners on leases
varying from 30 years to 99 years. Indeed most of Woodbrook is still leased land. It is
therefore likely that the building was originally used for the collection of land rents
from the persons who had constructed homes in Woodbrook. At a later date it may have been
converted to the collection of land taxes, which were paid at that office until 1998.
Behind the building is the Augustus Williams Playground (formerly known as Siegert Square)
which was named in honour of Augustus Williams who was a former mayor of Port of Spain.
According to Lynne Macedo in her paper. "The Impact of Indian Film in
Trinidad", an advertisement appeared in The Mirror newspaper during February 1900
that promoted a nightly programme of live entertainment in the Princes Building, Port of
Spain, that included moving pictures. By 1905, there were regular exhibitions of moving
pictures in Princes Building. The Princes Building however was host to all the major
theatrical and operatic productions that took place in Trinidad, so exhibitions of moving
pictures were a sideline activity. The demand for moving pictures was so great that on 2nd
February 1911, the first full time cinema was opened in Trinidad by Marcus and Reginald
Davis in partnership with Lanky Belasco. These first moving pictures were really still
photographs that were flashed across the screen and they were silent pictures with musical
accompaniment being provided by Lanky Belasco on a piano.
That first cinema was called the London Electric Theater and it was located
at the corner of French Street and Baden-Powell Street in Woodbrook. Over time the name of
the cinema was changed to the Astor Cinema and it became one of the most popular cinemas
in Trinidad. Unfortunately changing tastes in the population led to the decline of the
Astor and in 1995 it was closed down and converted into a church. Although converted to a
church, the building still stands today.
The Queens Park Oval is the Mecca for cricket in Trinidad and Tobago and is
situated in Port of Spain on a property bounded by Tragarete Road, St Clair Avenue,
Elizabeth Street and Havelock Street. It is one of the largest cricket grounds in the West
Indies with a capacity for 25,000 spectators and is the most picturesque of the West
Indian cricket grounds. The Oval, as it is fondly called, is owned by the Queens
Park Cricket Club which was founded in 1891 and which played cricket at the Queens Park Savannah. In 1896, the club applied for and
was granted a lease for the property that has become the Queens Park Oval. By 1897,
the Oval was hosting international cricket with an English team under Lord Hawke. In
addition to cricket, the Oval has also hosted numerous international football matches.
sporting activities, the Queens Park Oval has now become one of the best places for
viewing art by Trinidad and Tobago artists. Along the exterior walls of the Oval are hung,
huge paintings depicting scenes and re-creations of Trinidad and Tobago life. The Oval
walls are now like a giant free outdoor art gallery. Lighted at night, these paintings can
be viewed at any time. To get the full effect of each painting, they are best viewed from
across the street.
In the Western Cemetery of Port of Spain (also called the Mucurapo Cemetery) on the
eastern side of the cemetery are a series of graves lying side by side each other, that
are neatly kept. At any time of the year that you visit this cemetery these graves are
well maintained, with all the head stones having a constant coat of white paint. On
examining the head stones you will note that the individuals were buried between 1931 to
1950, with a few more recently. You will also note that the persons interred in these
grave came from Romania, Poland, Jerusalem, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Moscow, Austria and
If you ever visit this section of the cemetery you will notice another aspect of these
graves, all the deceased are Jewish. These are the graves of the "Calypso
Shtetl" and "The Calypso Jews".
Trinidads first major Jewish immigration was in the late 1700's, however
through intermarriage and emigration this Jewish population died out. In the late 1800's,
another group of mostly Portuguese Jews and some from Curacao came to the Trinidad and
again through intermarriage and emigration this Jewish population died out. Then from
1936, with the rise of Nazism and its attendant Anti-Semitism in Germany and Eastern
Europe an influx began. By 1938, 125 Jewish immigrants had arrived and by 1940 it was 585
Jews. Developing a life for themselves in Trinidad they began calling themselves
"Calypso Shtetl" and "The Calypso Jews".
Shortly after Britains entry into the war in 1939, all Germans and Austrians were
considered enemy aliens, and these Jews who had fled from Hitler but were Germans and
Austrians were rounded up and interned. At first they were placed in camps on Nelson and Caledonia islands and the later in camps at what would
become Federation Park and Ellerslie Park.
It is these individuals, refugees from Hitler, who are buried in the Mucurapo
Cemetery, in an area reserved for Jews, known as the Bet Olam section.
And the maintenance of the graves?
Trinidads only surviving member of this 1930s influx,
Mr. Hans Stecher, who came to Trinidad as a refugee child, does it.
The Museum of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service chronicles
the history of the police service from its formation in 1859 to the present day. The
development of the various arms of the service, biographies of past Commissioners of
Police, changes in uniforms over the years and significant moments in Police history are
all outlined in this small museum. There is even a diary recording the apprehension of
various criminals in the 1800's.
The Museum is located in the former
Police Headquarters building on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain and is open on
Tuesdays from 10am to 6pm and on Saturdays, from 10 am to 3 pm. Admission is free and
guided tours are available.
The Central Bank Money Museum is located on the ground floor of the Eric
Williams Financial Complex, Independence Square, Port of Spain (known locally as the Twin
Towers), and is open from Tuesday to Friday. Guided tours take place twice a day, at 9.30
am and 2 pm. Special tours can be arranged. Admission and tours are free. For more
information, call 625-2601 ext. 2400 or 2120.
The Eric Williams Financial Complex
was officially opened on March 29th, 1986. As the Twin Towers are located on
reclaimed land and Trinidad is susceptible to earthquakes, special architectural designs
had to be done for these two, twenty-two story towers. Dr Rollin Betrand in an article
called A GEOLOGICAL WALK AROUND INDEPENDENCE SQUARE PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD outlined the
measures. "1900 piles were driven to an
average depth of 80' with 560 below each tower. The pile cap under each tower is a
cellular raft' which is a combination of 9' x 6' beams and an 18" slab. All columns
on the towers are tied to this as water storage for the building is also located in the
basement for additional dead weight. The cross braces and the core walls in each of the
towers were designed to resist earthquake forces with the former taking 15% of the forces
and the latter taking 80-85%".
Nestled on the southern side of Port of Spain is a small museum that traces the history
of the city of Port of Spain. Located on South Quay, this museum is housed on the grounds
of the former Fort San Andres. Early records indicate that Fort San Andres was established
some time before 1777 as a gun battery on an island in the Port of Spain harbour. During
the reclamation work of 1832 that portion of the harbour was filled to create solid land
and causing Fort San Andres to be landlocked.
The Museum is open between 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Friday. The history of Port of
Spain is outlined from its beginnings as the Amerindian (Arawak) village that Walter
Raleigh saw in March 1595 to the present day. Through the use of storyboards with numerous
photographs, significant events are brought to life. Individuals who were prominent in the
life of the city are featured and there are several artifacts from the city. On the
grounds of the museum is the boat used by Harold and Kwailan La Borde,
two Trinidadians who circumnavigated the globe during 1969 to 1973. There is also one of
the locomotive engines from the days when Trinidad operated a rail system. Across from the
museum is Citigate the site of Trinidad's first rail station.
Established in 1892 as the Royal Victoria Institute, the National Museum and Art
Gallery is situated at the top of Frederick Street in Port of Spain, opposite Memorial Park and just south of the Queen's Park Savannah. The building was called the
Victoria Institute in honour of Queen Victoria.
The Institute was used for drama
and musical entertainment.It was destroyed by fire in 1920 and
rebuilt in 1923. In 1958 the
Institute was used for the first sitting of the Federal Court of the
Federation of the West Indies. In 1965 it became the National Museum and Art
Gallery. The Museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
and Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Museum manages a collection of some 10,000 items, including a collection of
paintings by Michel-Jean Cazabon. Among the many items on display in seven major
galleries are petroleum and geological exhibits, the permanent national art collection,
and a small gallery on Trinidad's Carnival arts. Periodically the museum hosts exhibitions
by visiting artists. On its grounds is a pillar erected in January 1918 to mark the site
of the Toll Gate which was discontinued in 1878.
One section of the Museum is
devoted to Calypso and Soca. There are photographs, newspaper articles, snippets of
calypso history, vinyl records, stage clothes of famous calypsonians and other calypso
memorabilia. This section of the museum lists all the Road March winners from 1932 to the
present and all the Calypso Monarch winners frm 1939 to the present. You can also see a
listing of the winners of the International Soca Monarch crown from 1993 to today and the
winners of the Chutney Soca Monarch competition from 1996 to today.
Another section of the museum is devoted to painting by Jean
Michael Cazabon who has been declared the National Painter. Jean Michael Cazabon was
born on September 20, 1813 on Corynth Estate, North Naparima, on the outskirts of San
Fernando. His parents, owners of a sugar plantation, were "free coloured"
immigrants from Martinique, who came to Trinidad following the Cedula of population of
1783. In 1826 at the age 13 he was sent to be educated at St. Edmund's College, Ware,
Hertfordshire, England and returned to Trinidad in 1830. In 1837 his mother sent him to
France to study art. In 1848 he returned to Trinidad with his wife and two children.
Cazabon soon became popular as a society painter, not only with his paintings of Trinidad
scenery, but also with his portraits of the planters and merchants of Port of Spain and
their families. He taught art, and provided illustrations of local events for English
newspapers. In 1851 he published a series of eighteen lithographs, "Views of
Trinidad, 1851". In 1857 he published a second series of eighteen lithographs of
local scenes, "Album of Trinidad". In addition to these lithographs Cazabon
painted numerous other scenes of Trinidad. In 1888 while painting he suffered a heart
attack and died. It is through Cazabon's paintings that we get a clear picture of Trinidad
in the 1800's.
Beginning in 1846 the Eastern Main Road was converted to a Toll Road and anyone
desirous of travelling from Port of Spain to Arima had to
pay a toll for using the road. At the time it was the main mode of transportation for
travelling to the east of Trinidad and remained so until the opening of the railway in 1876. Even after the railway it held a pre-eminent
position, as it was the only road route for eastern travel, until the construction of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway.
The tolls on travel on the Eastern Main Road remained until 1878. In 1918, a Toll Gate
Monument was erected to commemorate the Toll Gate. Today that monument can be seen on the
grounds of the National Museum.
Memorial Park was created to honour those individuals from Trinidad and
Tobago who died in the First World War from 1914 - 1918.
The sculpture was unveiled to the public in June 1924 and in its foundation
was placed documentary records of those who had died. After the Second World
War 1939 - 1945, the names of those soldiers were
added to the memorial.
Frederick and Charlotte Streets, just below the Queens
Park Savannah and across the street from the National
Museum, the park is a peaceful place on most days with the four walkways leading
to the Cenotaph at the center.
At the base of the cenotaph inscribed on bronze plaques are the names of
those who died in the wars and the branch of the armed forces in which they served. Also
inscribed are the names of those who served in the British West India Regiment. The park
is an ideal setting to sit and reflect on the fortunate circumstances in our lives as
there are benches along the walkways and flowering trees around the perimeter.
The Queen's Park Savannah is the oldest recreation ground in the West
Indies. This site was formerly the St. Ann's Estate which was purchased from the Peschier
family by the City Council in 1817. A small section of the site was reserved by the
Peschier family as a burial ground for family members and remains so to this day. In the
early 1800s the Savannah was not envisioned as an area for recreational pursuits but was
purchased as part of the estate for the governor's official residence and as a public
pasture for grazing domestic stock. The Governor's residence
was never constructed on the land but eventually on property to the north of the Savannah.
During the early 1900's an electric tramway
provided a "scenic tour" (4 km) around the perimeter of the park at 2 cents per
trip and it was not until 1950 that this facility was removed due to the protests from
citizens who claimed that the tram added unnecessary noise and congestion to the otherwise
The area known today as the "Hollows" was in 1841 a reservoir
that had been dug for the purpose of supplying Port of Spain with water. The water was run
from the St Ann's River through a channel in the Botanic Gardens that is now known as
The Queen's Park Hotel was in its heyday considered the
finest hotel in Trinidad and Tobago. Today all that remains to remind us of
the hotel is the reconstruction of the art deco central block that is now
the headquarters for BPTT. The Queen's Park hotel opened to the public on
January 16th 1895 and at the time it was a wooden two level building. When
the hotel opened it was one of only two buildings in Trinidad that had
electricity, all other buildings used kerosene and gas for lighting. The
fact that the hotel had electricity was largely due to the fact that the
major investor in the hotel was Edward Tripp who had set up the first
electricity generating plant in Trinidad and had begun stringing the
overhead lines for providing electricity to Port of Spain. The hotel was
considered among the very best because of all of its modern conveniences,
large, airy rooms and first-class cuisine plus what were in 1895 considered
reasonable rates of an inclusive rate of $2 to $5 per night. The hotel
catered mainly to American and English tourists who came to Trinidad by
steamships sailing from New York, Halifax, Southampton, London, Liverpool,
In 1938 it was planned to demolish the entire hotel and rebuild it as a 4
story concrete structure. However only the central portion was rebuilt as
the 4 story concrete and the wings remained as the original wooden building.
Then in 1955 both the Trinidad Country Club and the Queen’s Park Hotel were
purchased by J.B. Fernandes under the Fernandes Group of Companies. Joseph
Bento Fernandes was the grandson of Manuel Fernandes who had arrived in
Trinidad in 1880 from the Portuguese island of Madeira and who first
established an import export business and then developed a rum blending
business. On the death of his father Joseph Gregorio Fernandes in 1930 JB
Fernandes assumed control of the business. Two years later JB Fernandes
seized an opportunity that he saw when a fire destroyed the Government Rum
Bond and he was able to acquire the stocks of rum in their fire charred
barrels at fire sale prices. He discovered that the spirit had been
distilled thirteen years earlier and so he called it '1919' AGED RUM, it was
the forerunner of the most successful of the Fernandes brands for thirty
years with the named changed to Vat 19 when the original stocks ran out. The
Fernandes Group of Companies eventually sold the Queen's Park Hotel to RGM
Limited a commercial real estate development company, who rebuilt the
structure in 1996 but retained the appearance of the 1938 central block with
its art deco style.
While the hotel no longer exists you can still visit
this building on the southern side of
Queen's Park Savannah and see the elegance of the building from its days
as Trinidad's premier hotel.
The George Brown House is an example of
what can be achieved when sufficient members of the public raise their
voices in a united action. The George Brown House sits on the southern side
of the Queen's Park Savannah at the corner of Victoria Avenue. In 1985 this
house was slated for demolition to create space for an office complex and
the public outcry was so great that the demolition plans were shelved and
instead the house was restored. The public outcry arose because this house
is representative of a style of building that was popular in Trinidad in the
1800's and is a fine example of the work of one man who transformed much of
Port of Spain and was responsible for the design of Mille Fleurs,
Hayes Court, the Archbishop's House and the building now known as
Jenny's on the Boulevard.
George Brown came to Trinidad in 1883 from Scotland to join the firm of
Turnbull Stewart & Company which is now known as the Furness Group. At the
time, Turnbull Stewart & Company were engaged in shipping and trading,
having interests in various sugar plantations, the most notable of which was
Brechin Castle, and by 1854 Turnbull Stewart & Company had established local
coastal shipping and services for passengers and cargo. With the arrival of
George Brown, who was a Scottish trained architect/builder, Turnbull Stewart
& Company extended its activities into the area of hardware and
construction. In 1895, the "Great Fire of Port of Spain" devastated much of
Marine Square (later called Independence Square and now known as
Brian Lara Promenade) and lower
Frederick Street, Port of Spain's central square and main commercial street.
The rebuilding from this fire resulted in George Brown transforming much of
this part of Port of Spain.
In 1883, the Siegert family, the original
owners of Angostura Bitters,
commissioned George Brown to design a residence for them. The area they had
chosen for the house, the southern side of the Queen's Park Savannah, had
previously been Tranquility Estate and in 1880 the Government had acquired
it to allow Port of Spain to expand. As Trinidad was a British colony at the
time, the street on which the house was located was later named Victoria
Avenue in honour of Queen Victoria who had celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in
1887. George Brown's design for the house incorporated many of the features
that are representative of his style of building; decorative fretwork on the
gables and eaves of the buildings, a lantern roof which provided cooling
cross-ventilation and light to the interior of the buildings, decorative
cast-iron railings, jalousie windows that allowed ventilation. As much of
the social life and entertaining was done outside of the house in that era,
the house had two porches, one which faced the Savannah and one which faced
Victoria Avenue. To allow guests to disembark from their carriages in
comfort there was an extended roof across the circular driveway. The house
was later bought by the Prado family and then in 1941 they sold it Jessie
Simpson (the daughter of George Brown) and her husband Kenneth Simpson. Mrs.
Simpson lived in the house until her death in 1959 and her sister Jane
continued living in the house until her death in 1980. As a result of the
length of time that the Simpsons lived in the house it is known by some as
the Simpson House.
George Brown returned to Scotland in 1920 where he retired to cultivate
vegetables and flowers until his death in 1936.
Situated on the Queen's Park Savannah
at 12 Queen's Park West, immediately before All Saints Church, is Boissiere House,
which is also known as the Gingerbread House. Built in 1904 by Mr. Charles Boissiere as a
token of his love for Alice his wife, this house has developed its alternate name of
Gingerbread House because of the style of fretwork that adorns the lower edge of the roof.
On the western side of the Queen's Park
Savannah are several buildings that are collectively called the Magnificent Seven.
Built during a time of economic prosperity when cocoa was king, these historic buildings
are lovely examples of colonial architecture. In 1988 the Magnificent Seven buildings at
Queen's Park West were listed by the Organisation of American States as a historic
district on the Register of Monuments of the Greater Caribbean.
The Northernmost of the six buildings along Maraval Road
and Queen's Park West is Stollmeyer's Castle. Construction began in 1902 and was completed
in 1904. A Scottish architect Robert Gillies, from the firm of Taylor and Gillies designed
it and the Scottish influence was predominant in the design. It is said that the structure
of the house was patterned after a wing of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The limestone in
the walls was obtained from the Laventille
The house was built by Charles Fourier Stollmeyer. However, Mrs. Stollmeyer, who
had simple taste, found the building much too elaborate for her fancy, and she and her
husband did not move into it. The house was given to their son, Conrad C. Stollmeyer, who
was about to be married and who moved into the house in 1904. The building was acquired
from Mr. Mahabir by the Trinidad and Tobago Government in 1979.
The Archbishop's House found at 27 Maraval Road, is the official
residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. The structure was built in
1903 by the fifth Archbishop of Port of Spain, Patrick Vincent Flood and is influenced
mainly by Byzantine style. There is also a touch of early Renaissance architecture in the
building as evidenced by the elaborate crenellation on the top of the tower that bears
medieval connotations. The marble and red granite used in the building came from Ireland
and the cedar and greenheart used for the paneling, staircase and floors were obtained
locally. At the time of its construction the Archbishop thought that in keeping with the
dignity of his office, he would build a palatial residence. In the four points of
the square tower, Archbishop Flood tried to symbolize the four-square authority of the
Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
In 1968 extensive renovations were carried out on the building by
architect Sonny Sellier, and contractor Rev. Father Kevin Devenish. After its completion
in 1969, Monsignor Anthony Pantin, the first Trinidad-born Archbishop, took up residence
there. Since renovation, as one approaches the entrance, there is a Coat of Arms - the
Spirit of the Holy Ghost looking down on the Three Hills of Trinidad. Underneath a cross
is the motto: Omnia Omnibus (All things to all men).
The most modest of the Magnificent Seven, Hayes Court was constructed in
1910 and named after
Bishop Thomas Hayes, who was the second Bishop of the Anglican
Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago. It is said that the building was designed to reflect a
combination of the quiet graciousness of the French and English country house design, with
high ceilings, mahogany staircase, wrought-iron fretwork, and wood paneling.
What do Buenos Ayres, the Manjack mine in Vistabella and the fourth lot of
land on Queens Park West have in common? They were all owned by Lucien Francois Ambard.
Designed by a French architect in the French Baroque Colonial style with marble from Italy
and tiles from France, Lucien R Ambard constructed his home at the Queen's Park Savannah.
Because of financial failure and the inability to meet the mortgage payments to Gordon
Grant & Company, the Ambard family lost the house in 1919. It was subsequently sold to
a Pointz Mackenzie, who also lost it in 1923 under circumstances similar to that of
Ambard. Again the property fell back in the hands of Gordon Grant.
An American businessman, William Pelligrew, and his family rented the house from Gordon
Grant and lived there until 1940. In that year, the house was sold to Mr. Timothy Roodal
for $24,000. The building has since been named Roomor - an abbreviated version of two
family names - Roodal and Morgan.
Built in 1904, "Mille Fleurs" is situated at No. 23 Maraval
Road. "Mille Fleurs" is in the style of a typical town-house of the period, and
its architecture may be referred to as early French Renaissance, with wrought iron
fretwork. The house was apparently built for Mrs. Enrique Prada, who gave it the name
"Mille Fleurs", which suggests it may have been surrounded by flowers. The house
is presently owned by the Government and undergoing restoration.
The foundation stone for Queens
Royal College was laid on November 11, 1902 by Sir Courtenay Knollys, the then Acting
Governor. The College was opened on March 25, 1904. The building was designed by DM Hahn,
chief draughtsman in the Department of Public Works, who was himself a QRC old boy and the
father of QRC boys. The original school formed in 1859 was called Queen's Collegiate
School and was located opposite Lord Harris Square. In 1870, the school became the Queen's
Royal College and was housed in the supper room of the Prince's Building.
The Main Block is in German Renaissance-style architecture, as is very
evident by its solidness and ornateness. The clock in the building was presented to
the school by William Gordon Gordon in 1913. The Science Block was opened in 1939, the
North Block in 1940 and the West Block in 1956.
Whitehall was designed by its first owner in
Corsican style with Venetian influence and built by James Moore a builder from Barbados.
Moore used natural white sandstone imported from Barbados, in the construction. The
building took from 1902 to 1904 while the roof was completed in 1910. The building is
today owned by the Government and used as part of the office of the Prime Minister.
Trinidad has always been a melting pot with the mixing of persons of different
ethnicities through sexual liaisons. This was especially the case in the 18th and 19th
century when European males often had sexual encounters with African women resulting in
mixed race children. Although this was frowned upon by many in the wider European society
in Trinidad, the practice was widespread. Those Europeans of French descent often went
further in their sexual liaisons and married their partners or installed their African or
mixed race female partners in houses. One of the areas that owe its name to the sexual
escapades of one man is the property known as Rookery Nook on Long Circular Road in
In the late 1700's Trinidad was considered under populated and there was a desire to
attract immigrants to Trinidad. The Spanish as a result issued what was known as the
Cedula of Population of 1783. Under the terms of the Cedula, the Spanish Crown granted 32
acres (129,000 m²) of land and half as much for each slave that they brought, to each
Roman Catholic of any country who settled in Trinidad and Tobago and swore loyalty to the
Spanish Crown. Each Free Coloured or Free Person of Colour, (as they were
later known), were given, 16 acres (65,000 m²) and half as much for each slave they
brought, once they were Roman Catholic and swore loyalty to the Spanish Crown. The
Cedula dramatically increased Trinidad's population moving it from 1,000 persons in 1773
to 18,627 by 1797.
Many of the individuals who came to Trinidad were of French origin, migrating from the
French Caribbean islands and also directly from France. One of the families that came to
Trinidad under the terms of the Cedula of Population of 1783 was the Valleton de
Boissière family, which had originated in Bergerac in Southern France and then
settled on the island of Grenada. According to Gerard Besson in a paper given to the
Society of Caribbean Historians in 1990, John Nicholas Boissiere in 1860 married a
mixed race woman, Marie Aurile Soully and they lived in a house in Champs Elysees in
Maraval. Prior to his marriage John Nicholas had two children (a son and a daughter)
with a back woman. John Nicholas had both his illegitimate children and the offspring of
his marriage living in the house in Maraval. Those members of society who disapproved of
the marriage and the dark skinned offspring began to say that there were so many crows
(black birds) around the house that it resembled a rookery (a breeding place for crows).
Boissiere in a response, that symbolically thumbed his nose at society, then named his
house, Rookery Nook.
Although the house no longer exists in the form when John Nicholas Boissiere lived there
and is today known as Kent House, the entire area is still known as Rookery Nook.
The Botanic Gardens are located in Port of Spain on the northern side of the Queen's Park Savannah. The gardens were established in
1818 by Governor Woodford and his gardener David Lockhart was assigned to fill it with
specimens from around the world. These gardens occupy 25 hectares of landscaped grounds
and are open everyday from 6am to 6pm.
Within the gardens is a small cemetery that was reserved for Trinidad's governors, with
the earliest burial record being from 1819 of William Souper. The cemetery also
contains the grave of the wife of the Bristish Governor Sir George
Fitzgerald Hill, who died in November 1836 and asked to be buried in the Botanic Gardens.
When Sir George died in March 1839, he was buried beside his wife.
Also buried in this cemetery is Sir Solomon Hochoy who
was the last British Governor of Trinidad and
Tobago and the first non-white Governor. Upon the attainment of Independence in 1962, he
was appointed as Governor-General, a post he held until 1972. Sir Solomon Hochoy was born
on 20 April 1905 in Jamaica, and arrived in Trinidad at the age of 2. He grew up in the
village of Blanchisseuse and after retirement he
returned to Blanchisseuse where he spent the remainder of his life. He died on 15 November
The President's House is located on the northern side of the Queen's Park Savannah, adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. During the period when Trinidad was a
British Crown Colony it was the home of the Governor. During the period 1st May 1958 to
31st May 1962, it was the residence of the Governor-General of the
Federated West Indies, Lord Hailes. From 4th September 1962, the building was
used as a Museum and Art Gallery until December 1965, at which time the first Governor of
an independent Trinidad and Tobago, Sir Solomon Hochoy,
moved into the residence. On 1st August 1976, when Trinidad and Tobago became a
Republic, (the occasion is observed on 24th September), the Governor-General's
House (subsequently designated "The President's House") became the residence of
the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with President Ellis Clarke as the
The grounds on which the President's House is located were formerly the
Hollandais Estate and in 1819 the Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford bought the property on
behalf of the Cabildo. He renovated the existing estate house, which was located slightly
in front of the site of the present house, and called it "St Ann's Cottage". In
1873 Governor James Robert Longden began construction of the present President's House and
it was completed in 1876 by Governor Sir Henry Turner Irving. It is believed that Longden
designed the building in an "L" shape as a remembrance to himself.
Knowlsey Building on Queen's Park West on the eastern end of the Queen's
Park Savannah, presently houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Built in 1904, this building occupies the entire block from Queen's Park
West to Albion Street, between Chancery Lane and Dundonald Street. It was designed and
constructed in 1904 by Taylor Gillies, at a cost of $100,000 for William Gordon Gordon, a
Scotsman who grew wealthy by operating businesses in Trinidad. It has been recorded that
the building might have been named after the residence of Gordon's friend in Cheshire,
The building is predominantly Italian and German in architecture, and has been referred
to as a "sandwich of blue stone and brick". When originally constructed the
marble on the gallery which surrounds the ground floor was imported from Italy, and the
wood for the beautiful staircase of purple heart came from Guyana. The ceilings on the
ground floor are of plaster of Paris and the gesso work is that of an Italian craftsman
who did the work on the ceiling in the Council Chamber in the Red
House, and in the Stollmeyer's house.
Everyone alive today would have grown up with the sight of the Port of Spain Genera
Hospital on Charlotte Street and most would assume that this is the only hospital that
Port of Spain has ever had. However, according to Historical Sketches by Dr.K.S. Wise, the
earliest hospital in Port of Spain was located on Nelson Street on Lots 49 - 55. In 1794,
the Spanish abandoned these buildings and leased the Hospital that existed on Ariapita
Estate which was owned by Charles Melville and covered 120 acres extending up to the
present Woodford Square.
In the 1800's however, because of the frequent epidemics that ravaged Port of Spain, the
colonial Government decided that a new hospital was required for Port of Spain. The
Government decided that the most suitable space would be the land that had been occupied
since 1797 by the British troops that had invaded Trinidad and was known as Orange Grove
Barracks. Thus in 1821, the land at the Orange Grove barracks was sold to the Colonial
Government as the site for a hospital. Construction of the hospital however did not
commence until 1855 when the foundation stone was laid by Governor Sir C Elliot. At the
time of laying the foundation stone, Port of Spain was once again the midst of a cholera
epidemic. The hospital was completed in 1858 and opened by Governor Keate on 1st September
The Port of Spain Hospital had been built by a Trinidadian
engineer, L. W. Samuels, as a two storey hospital building and was Georgian in style with
Palladian arches. It was 390 feet long and 64 feet wide with open galleries of 10 feet
wide on both sides of the first floor and cost £30,000 sterling. At the time it was
capable of holding 200 patients. Over the years the Port of Spain General Hospital has
been expanded significantly, however the original hospital can still be seen as the front
of the hospital, visible from Charlotte Street.
The building at #6 Cipriani Boulevard, known as Jenny's on the Boulevard
houses a popular restaurant in Port of Spain but this building is also a
historic home. This building was actually the first building that
George Brown designed when he came to
Trinidad and it was the home of the Boos family. Some of Brown's notable
features are seen on the house such as the lantern that allows light and air
into the house and decorative cast iron. This building however does not have
the decorative fretwork that is seen in many of his later buildings.
Karl George Boos came to Trinidad in 1873 from Germany by 1883 he had become prosperous
enough to purchase a plot in the area that the Government had recently
acquired from Tranquility Estate. As a result of the part that he had played
in the lighting of the city of Port of Spain and in the laying out of
Tranquility, the major thoroughfare of the area, Cipriani Boulevard, was
named after José Emmanuel Cipriani. Karl Boos was able to purchase the plot
in this newly established area of Port of Spain because of his wealth and
that wealth arose because of Boos ownership of
J.N. Harriman and Company Limited.
The previous owners of the company, the Gerolds, had opened a branch of the
company in Venezuela in a town called Angostura (now called Cuidad Bolivar)
and they became friendly with Dr. J.G.B. Siegert the inventor of the world
famous Angostura Bitters. In 1875 the company, J.G.B. Siegert & Sons, moved
its business to the island of Trinidad and in 1878
Carlos Siegert came to George
Wupperman, one of the owners of J.N. Harriman and Company and they set up an
agency in New York for the sale of Angostura Bitters giving that agency the
sole worldwide rights for Angostura Bitters. Karl Boos had joined J.N.
Harriman and Company shortly after coming to Trinidad and by 1878 had become
head clerk. In 1885, Harriman and Company was sold to Carlos Siegert who a
few weeks later sold the company to Karl Boos. Boos therefore became the
owner of a successful business that had the worldwide rights to the sale of
Angostura Bitters. The business did so well under Boos that he was able to
repay his loans early. In 1892 however Karl Boos was trying to purchase two
cocoa estates and to get the money for the purchase he approached Carlos
Siegert who agreed to a loan but made it a condition of the loan that
Harriman and Company had to give up the worldwide rights for Angostura
Many persons have heard of New Orlean's city of the dead with its daily
tours of tourists. Lapeyrouse cemetery is Trinidad's city of the dead
and a city it is indeed with buildings, alleys, streets in a grid pattern
and residents, albeit most of the residents are not moving but each official
resident has a fixed address. At Lapeyrouse, it is almost possible to trace
the entire economic life of Trinidad and who made the money, for the rich
bury their dead in grandiose style and here can be seen more than just fancy
headstones but raised tombs, crypts, mausoleums and statues.
Lapeyrouse cemetery is on the western edge of Port of Spain but with the
enlarged metropolitan area that Port of Spain has become it really can be
considered more in the center of the city. This burial ground is bounded by
Tragarete Road on the north, Park Street on the south, Colville Street on
the west and Phillip Street on the east. At the southern entrance to the
cemetery there is an inscription intended to remind all of us that our days
are numbered and it reads "Stop, traveler, e’er you go by, So are you now,
so once was I,As I am now, soon you will be".
The cemetery is laid out in an almost rectangular pattern with numbered
streets running through the area. As you wander through this final resting
place of Trinidad's prominent and not so prominent citizens, certain
structures catch your eye as some are designed to look like churches, some
like mini homes and others simply as solid resting places. Among the larger
structures are the tomb of the Famille Agostini, the Herrera family tomb,
the resting place of Carlos Robertson from 1886, the De
Souza tomb, the Cabral family vault and the church like structure for
Famille Comte L.A.A. de Verteuil. Another interesting family tomb is that of
the Jodhan family which has chairs, candles, statutes, chaplets and pictures
all inside and laid out as if for family members to come and sit and
remember the deceased or possibly converse with them.
After the British conquest in 1797, Port of Spain was in need of a new
burial ground and so land was acquired in a small area bordered by Tragarete
Road, Richmond Street and Fraser Street. A wall was erected around it, and
by 1813 it was referred to as the ‘Old Cemetery’. As the town grew, more
land was needed and so the land was acquired from Picot de la Peyrouse, a
French nobleman who had come to Trinidad in 1778 under the Cedula de
Populacion and established a sugar cane estate on the outskirts of Trinidad
and built the first factory for the production of Muscovado sugar (brown
sugar). Picot de la Peyrouse had allocated 20 acres for the creation of a
cemetery and had a dedication ceremony in 1823. By 1831, this cemetery had
acquired the name Lapeyrouse because it was on the old estate lands. Within
just a few years, the cemetery was again enlarged, this time buying lands
from the Shine family. Over the next few years, more land was acquired from
the Dert family (pronounced Der), who had started the first coffee estate in
an area between Queen’s Park south and Tragarete Road in the 1770s (they are
remembered through the street with their name just north of the cemetery).
The northern entrance to Lapeyrouse cemetry is called the Perry Gate and is
named after American Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry died near Trinidad on
August 23, 1819; he was buried at Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port of Spain. He
died aboard the US schooner Nonsuch when he contracted yellow fever after a
successful mission to the Orinoco River, Venezuela, where he held
discussions with Venezuela's President, Simon Bolivar, over piracy in the
Caribbean. The then British rulers failed to recognise him as a hero because
Perry, at 27, was responsible for leading a decisive naval battle at Lake
Erie, which defeated a British squadron. It was a battle that ensured
control by the Americans of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war. Seven
years later, the US Navy sent its officers to remove Perry's body from
Lapeyrouse and they took it to his homeland — Rhode Island, USA. By 1866,
the relationship between Britain and the United States had improved and when
Arthur Hamilton Gordon was appointed Governor of Trinidad, he collaborated
with members of the Cabildo to erect a monument at Lapeyrouse in honour of
Perry. The monument consisted of two concrete columns, 15 feet apart, and
adorned with historical details concerning the incident. The metal gate
leading into the cemetery was decorated with silver-coated coats of arms of
Britain and the United States. The site was named Perry Memorial Gateway.
The monument was completed and opened on April 11, 1870, in the presence of
the governor and Mayor John Bell-Smythe. In April 2012, The Perry Gate was
refurbished by the US Government.
Tucked away on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain between Park Street and Duke Street is
a small red brick building. The building is easily passed without notice because it is set
back from the street. This building is the home of the Bruce Stevens Trust and was erected
In 1896, Bruce Stevens came to Trinidad from what was then British Guiana and started a
store on Frederick Street that was known as Stevens Limited. Bruce Stevens prospered as a
result of the store but was moved by the conditions that affected children in Port of
Spain during that era. As a result he became actively involved in social work. When Bruce
Stevens died his brother, J.W. Stevens, took over the running of the business. Before his
death in 1940, J.W. Stephens wanted to ensure that the social work started by his brother
continued and so he created the Bruce Stevens Trust.
The building known as the Red House is the site of the the Parliament of
Trinidad and Tobago. It is located opposite Woodford Square
and bounded by Abercromby, Knox, Hart Streets. Construction of this building began in 1844
and the southern wing was completed in 1848. During the British colonial period they were
known as the Government Offices. The building was burnt in 1849 when citizens objected to
a clause that was being debated by the Cabildo that would have required debtors to have
their heads shaved and wear prison clothes. In 1903 these offices were completely
destroyed by fire in what were known as the Water Riots. The rebuilding began in 1904 and
was completed in 1907. On 27th July 1990, the Prime Minister and other members of
parliament were held hostage in the building during a short-lived coup-d-etat.
In 1897 in honour of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, the building
was painted red and has been painted that colour ever since. The design of the building
was done by Daniel M Hahn, chief draughtsman in the Department of Public Works, who was a
past student of Queen's Royal College. The
design of the building reflects a Corinthian order in its columns and half columns.
Located across the street from the Red House on
St. Vincent Street in Port of Spain is the former Police Headquarters. Constructed in
1876, at a cost of 90,000 pounds, on the site of the barracks of the West India Regiment,
it served as police headquarters for over 100 years. It contained a residence for the head
of the force as well as quarters for the volunteer fire brigade and the volunteer corps.
At one time, the stipendiary magistrate of Port of Spain held his daily court there.
Built of local limestone from the Piccadilly Quarries in Laventille it was burnt
in 1882 as a result of a mishap in the lamp room and rebuilt in 1884. It was again gutted
by fire in 1990 as a result of an attempted coup and rebuilt in 2003. The building is in
the form of a square designed around a central courtyard. In the rebuilding an effort was
made to ensure that those parts that are new matched the other sections that were still of
the original construction.
The building is still in use at the present and houses several police
departments as well as the Police
While the Magnificent Seven are the best
known examples of colonial architecture in Trinidad, throughout the country there survives
many historic buildings from earlier periods in our history. Several of these buildings
originally constructed as residences have been converted to offices but the exteriors have
been maintained with the original design.
The streets around Lord Harris Square in
Port of Spain are one area where you can see several examples of earlier buildings. In the
immediate vicinity of the square on Abercromby, New and Pembroke Streets are several
buildings dating to earlier in our history. While smaller in scale than the other mansions
at Queen's Park West, they survive and continue to
exhibit their splendor.
Other examples found in Port of Spain are on Victoria Avenue, Keate Street
and Queen's Park South. Even as 21st century edifices of concrete and steel begin to tower
above them, these buildings retain their beauty.
Victoria Square in Port of Spain is also bordered by buildings that
reflect the colonial style of construction. During early morning and early evening
periods, visitors to Victoria Square are blessed by the sight and sound of wild Orange
Winged Amazon Parrots and wild Yellow Fronted Parrots.
A beautiful example of the French style of building during the late 1800's
and early 1900's can be found on the corner of Sweet Briar Road and Elizabeth Street in
Port of Spain.
It has been said that unlike the wealthy of English extraction, those of
French heritage chose to keep their wealth in Trinidad and constructed buildings where
they could freely entertain their friends. One feature of these buildings is the large
verandah that usually spans the entire house.
The former capital of Trinidad, St Joseph, is
another location where older buildings dating back to colonial times can be seen.
The seat of Municipal
Government for the City of Port of Spain was also the location
of the old Town Hall which was unfortunately destroyed by fire
on the 16th April, 1948.
In its historical past, it was
a Plantation House owned by Don Ramon Garcia, a Lawyer and said
to be member of the Spanish Royal Family during Spain’s Colonial
Rule in Trinidad. The House and property
which contained a small chapel was bought over by Mr. Leon
Agostini, a cocoa magnate who in turn sold it to the Port of
Spain City Council in 1889.
aftermath of the fire, the Town Hall was temporarily relocated at
the Prince’s Building south of the Queen’s Park Savannah for next
the thirteen (13) years. On the 24th
April, 1958 the foundation stone for the new Town Hall was laid
by H.R.H Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom at a ceremony
held at the site of the old Town Hall Building.
The modern building was
designed by the architectural firm Prior Lourenco & Nothnagel and
built by the Arthur Brothers Company. It was officially opened to
the public in 1961 with Councilor E.C. Taylor being the first
Mayor to occupy the new office.
The Mural in the forecourt of
the main entrance at Knox Street was done by Trinidad’s well
known artist, Carlisle Chang and its name ‘Conquerabia’ was the
original title for the city of Port of Spain.
It was founded on the site
of a legendary Indian battle in the Pre-Columbian times.
The new City Hall has been the
site for numerous civic and officials events and theatrical
performances and in 1971 the Army Mutiny Trials were held in its
auditorium for a period of several months.
On 1st February 1851, Governor Lord Harris laid an ordinance for the
establishment of the first public library in Trinidad. This library which went into
operation in June of that year was housed in the Government Building (known today as the Red House). The library moved to several buildings over the years
until finally in 1901 a dedicated building was constructed for the library and opened in
1902. The site used was once the home of the first British governor in Trinidad, Sir
This building on Knox Street, opposite Woodford Square,
served as the main library for Port of Spain for over 100 years until in 2003 a new
National Library complex was opened. Today the building is still part of the National
Library System and houses the Heritage Library.
On Sackville Street in Port of Spain, sandwiched between the Police Headquarters
building and the office of the Attorney General is a small building called the Cabildo
Building. The Cabildo was an institution established during the time when Trinidad was a
Spanish colony. It was in fact the earliest semblance of Local Government in Trinidad.
Seven of the twelve members of the Cabildo were elected by the taxpayers. The Cabildo had
wide executive powers, performing a wide range of functions with ecclesiastical,
executive, judicial, fiscal, economic and military powers. The Cabildo appointed chief
judges on the island, supervised markets, scavenged and repaired streets, controlled the
police, the Royal Goal, the admission of physicians and surgeons, and levied duties and
taxes on grog shops.
There is a widely held belief that this building
was the office of the Royal Cabildo. We know however that up to 1808, the Cabildo Building
was situated on Charlotte Street, a short distance from Queen Street, on the right as you
walk north. In 1808 the Great Fire of Port-of-Spain completely destroyed the town
including the Cabildo Building. We also know that in 1815, the Cabildo purchased a house
on the corner of Brunswick Square (now Woodford Square)
which eventually became the Cabildo Building (Town Hall). It is therefore likely that this
building either housed some of the functions of the Cabildo or was the meeting place of
the Cabildo during the period between 1808 and 1815. We also know that in 1845 the
building housed the Registrar of Deeds.
In 1895 a huge fire swept through the downtown district of Port of Spain. Fortunately
most people were at the Queens Park Oval watching a
cricket match between a Trinidad team and the first English cricket team to visit
Trinidad. This fire however had followed another fire in 1808 that had destroyed much of
Port of Spain. As a result of the 1895 fire it was thought that to enable Port of Spain to
better deal with fires a dedicated building was required. As a result this building on
Abercromby Street was erected. Previously the volunteer Fire Brigade was housed in the Police Headquarters building on St Vincent Street.
Although the Fire Brigade was housed in its own building, it remained part of the Police
Service until 1951 when the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service was established. In 1951,
this building became the Headquarters for the Fire Service until more modern premises were
constructed on Wrightson Road. For the present the building is part of the National
Situated in the
heart of the city, Woodford Square is bordered by Frederick Street on the East, Abercromby
Street on the West, Hart Street on the South and Knox Street on the North.
Woodford Square was first known as the Place ofSouls by
the Amerindians who fought a bloody battle on this open space. The St Ann's River ran
through this open space and down to the sea. The course of the river was later changed to
what is today called The Dry River and the riverbed in the Place of Souls was filled up.
With the coming of the French settlers to the island, they called the Place of Souls -
Place Des Ames. Place Des Ames means place of souls.
Place Des Ames later became known as Brunswick Square. It is believed
that because Brunswick Square was used as a parade ground by the soldiers many of whom
were Germans that the square was named after the German soldiers.
In 1813 Governor Sir Ralph Woodford arrived in Trinidad and he
immediately began rebuilding the town and laid out the square. He commissioned the German
botanist, Baron Schack, to fill the square with flowering trees. In 1866 a fountain was
put in the center of the Square as a gift from George Gregor Turnbull of Glasgow,
Scotland. In 1892 new heavy railings were put up around the square. These are the ones we
see today. In 1917 a bandstand was built and opened by Dr E. Prada, the then Mayor of Port
of Spain. At the opening of the bandstand the name of the square was changed from
Brunswick Square to Woodford Square for patrotic reasons (Brunswick being a German name
and World War I was in progress) and to honour the Governor Sir Ralph Woodford.
On November 7th 2007, Woodford Square was used for the swearing-in
ceremony for the Prime Minister, Patrick Manning. This was the first time that the
ceremony had been held in public.
Over the years, people have called Woodford Square by different names:
'The University of Woodford Square', 'The People's Parliament'. It has been and continues
to be a place where lively debate takes place everyday.
A building is much more than a physical structure. In
some instances it represents the hopes, dreams, aspirations and life stories
of the people who lived or worked in the building. In some instance a
building can represent the aspirations of a nation. The former headquarters
of the Trinidad Cooperative Bank at the corner of Duke and Charlotte Streets
in Port of Spain is such a building.
The Trinidad Co-operative Bank (TCB) was incorporated in 1914 as a savings
institution with the vision “to inculcate in the people virtue of thrift…and
to provide a quick, easy, safe means for children and poor people to save …”
The major driving force behind the establishment of the bank was Charles
Augustin Petioni, who encouraged the other coloureds at that time to get
together and form a bank to call their own because at that time a large
section of the population had no banking relationships. Petioni who was born
in Trinidad in 1883 was at the time a young journalist and he later went to
Howard University in the United States and studied medicine. Charles
Petioni who was a friend of the father of Eric Williams later became a
pioneer of Marcus Garvey’s (1887–1940) Universal Negro Improvement
Association and a leader of the Caribbean independence movement in the
United States. He died in 1951.
When the Bank was established in May 1914 it began operating at 42 Henry
Street. Unlike the other Banks which accepted no less than a shilling (24
cents) to open an account, the Bank encouraged depositors to open accounts
with as little as one penny. In this way, the bank became known as the Penny
Bank. The Bank's deposits in the first year of trading, 1914 – 1915, were
$83.31. As the Bank grew, it was able in 1923 to move to larger premises at
the corner of Duke and Charlotte Streets. Written into the concrete were the
words Thrift, Save and Cents.
One of the best known individuals associated with the
Bank was Dr Arthur Hutton McShine who in 1919 was made president of the bank
and served until his death in 1948; he was also the 5th mayor of Port of
Spain from 1921 to 1922. Dr McShine was born “Behind the Bridge,” then as
now, not the most respectable area of Port-of-Spain. He was the fourth and
last child of John and Caroline McShine, immigrants from St Vincent.
Arthur Hutton McShine attended Eastern Boys’ Government Primary School and
won the exhibition (at the time this was a scholarship that allowed you to
attend high school), and so he went to
Queen's Royal College and eventually won the Island Scholarship to study
at a University abroad, going to Howard University where he studied medicine
and later specialized in ophthalmology.
The Trinidad Co-operative Bank also has the distinction of employing the
first female banker in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Rose Liris Mc
Shine Monsantowas born on February 24,
1908. She was the daughter of Dr Arthur Hutton Mc Shine and was the fifth
child in a family of 12 other siblings. Apart from being the first
female banker, another of her major life accomplishments was being the first
female banker to be appointed to the board of directors. Her role with the
bank was highlighted in a book published by First Citizens Bank. She worked
in the banking industry for more than 16 years before being named a director
of the Bank in 1943. She died January 13th 2009.
From its inception the Trinidad Co-operative Bank grew, however in 1986 the
Central Bank took control of the Penny Bank as it had an adverse audit the
previous year. With a new management team the Bank showed some recovery
however in 1991 the Central Bank told the Co-operative Bank that it was in
violation of Section 16 of the Banking Act, which stipulates that no bank
should incur deposit liabilities of an amount exceeding 20 times its paid-up
capital and reserve fund. Eventually in 1993 the Co-operative Bank was
merged with the Workers Bank and the National Commercial Bank to form the
First Citizen's Bank.
Capildeo House at 36A Edward Street incorporates an old gingerbread style house into
the design of a multi-storey building.
Number 36A Edward Street Port of Spain was the home of Miss Juliana Jacobs who lived there
with her mother Ms Alice Jacobs. In 1956 Ms Juliana Jacobs married George Chambers who
went on to become the second Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in 1981, on the death
of Dr. Eric Williams.
In 2009, Capildeo House was erected on the lot at 36A Edward Street. In constructing
this building the owners very cleverly incorporated the original house in which Mrs
Chambers lived into their design. The old style of Port of Spain residential architecture
from the 1940's has therefore been preserved, retaining a place of historical interest.
On Richmond Street Port of Spain, just before the intersection with Duke Street is a
building with a sign that reads "Associação Portuguesa".
This unimposing structure is a place of interest because it is one of the few remaining
buildings that gives a hint of the immigration of a group of individuals that have
significantly impacted the business life of Trinidad and our culinary traditions.
In 1834 with the abolition of slavery, the sugar planters were desperate
for labour and a group of twenty-five Portuguese labourers was brought from the Azores.
These individuals did not last in Trinidad and either died or returned to their native
land within two years. In 1846, the planters again tried Portuguese labourers and brought
219 persons from Madeira. It is possible that the planters chose Madeira because it is an
island archipelago off the west coast of Morocco in Africa and they may have thought that
being so close to Africa these Portuguese could endure Trinidad's climatic conditions.
During this period Madeira was undergoing economic hardship and these individuals
volunteered to go to Trinidad in the hope of a better life. During 1846 and 1847,
additional Portuguese labourers were brought to Trinidad from Madeira. The majority of the
Portuguese did not remain working on the sugar estates for very long as, (fortunately for
them) they had not signed any indentureship papers (unlike the later Indian laborers). Most of the Portuguese
immigrants either died, became small shopkeepers (especially of rum shops) or became
involved in cocoa.
Two other significant groups of Portuguese came to Trinidad. In 1846 a
group of Portuguese
Presbyterians fled to Trinidad from Madeira to escape persecution from Catholic
Portuguese. More detail is provided on this group on the Religious Sites Page.
According to Jo-Anne S. Ferreira in her work The Portuguese of Trinidad, between 1856 and
1858, there was immigration to Trinidad from the Cape Verde Islands of approximately 100
Portuguese who were of Negroid origin rather than Caucasian.
Through hard work, these Portuguese immigrants developed their small
shops into large commercial enterprises and also introduced Trinidad to olive oil and
The Treasury Building is located on the western end of the Brian Lara Promenade (formerly called Independence
Square). It was previously the site of the Central Bank, which is now located across the
Promenade at the Twin Towers. In 1831, the
original Treasury Building was constructed under the direction of the British Governor Sir
Lewis Grant. For many years it was also the residence of the British Governors and a rum
On August 1st 1834, the Emancipation Proclamation was read from the steps
of the Treasury Building by Governor Sir George Fitzgerald Hill, announcing the beginning
of the end of slavery in Trinidad. Slavery legally ended on August 1st 1838 with the
reading of the Abolition Proclamation from this building by the same governor.
On 25th June 1932, the Treasury Building was destroyed by fire and in
1936, construction of the present building commenced with completion being in 1938.
On 2nd February 1911, the first cinema opened in Trinidad in a building on
the corner of French Street and Baden-Powell Street in Woodbrook. This building which
still exists today was known as the London Electric Theatre. Over time, cinema became the
most popular form of entertainment so that by the 1970s there was a cinema in almost
every neighbourhood in Trinidad.
One of the magnates of the cinema industry was William Pettigrew Humphrey who had come
to Trinidad in the 1920s from British Guiana and established the Colonial Film
Exchange in partnership with George Rosenthal. Eventually Humphrey bought out Rosenthal
and created a chain of cinemas that included the De Luxe Cinema on Keate Street in Port of
Spain (now Zen Nightclub). To store the films for the cinema, Humphrey constructed the
small vault like building that is at the intersection of Charles Street and Wrightson Road
in Port of Spain, opposite the Fire Station.
At the time this area was known as Corbeaux Town. This section of
Port of Spain was a deeply indented bay with fishing boats and fishermen huts along the
shore. There was a fish market and the citizens of Port of Spain came daily to the area to
purchase fresh fish. The sea came all the way to the end of London Street and so
Humphreys vault was actually on the waterfront, which made sense at the time because
the principal means of international transport was by boat. Because of the fish market and
the common habit of tossing the fish entrails on the beach, the area attracted numerous
Corbeaux, hence the name. By 1938, the reclamation of land along this part of Port of
Spain, had eliminated the bay, ending the use of this part of the city as a fish market
and placing Humphreys vault in an inland position.
Brian Lara Promenade runs for ¾ of a mile along the southern end of Port of
Spain through Independence Square. Constructed on reclaimed land that up to
1803 was next to the waterfront with the sea literally rolling up to its
edges, this square was originally called Plaza de la Marina. When the
British captured Trinidad in 1797 they translated the name to Marine Square.
In 1803,1850,1906 and 1935, land was reclaimed from the sea to extend that
portion of Port of Spain southward. In the 1700’s Marine Square was the
administrative heart of the country with public buildings such as the
treasury, the court house, the military barracks, the prison, and the
residence of the governor in the area. In strolling through this area, one
can still find businesses that were established during that early period
such as J.N Harriman and Trinidad Import & Export plus
the Treasury Building. At the corner of
Independence Square South and Abercrombie Street, one can still see imbedded
in the wall the original rings that were used for tying horses and the
original street sign from 1822 on the wall, plus see the street sign that
bears the original name that the British gave the street, King Street”.
1962, in honor of Trinidad and Tobago's independence from the United Kingdom
Marine Square was renamed Independence Square.
the middle of Independence Square is a statue of Captain Arthur Andrew
Cipriani who was born in 1875 and fought in World War One in the British
West India Regiment. After the war he led the first important industrial
strike in Trinidad and, in 1921, he was elected to a seat on the City
Council of Port-of-Spain. In 1923, he became President of the Trinidad
Workingmen’s Association, which at that time was the Country’s leading
workers’ organization, and in 1925, Captain Cipriani became Mayor of
Port-of-Spain, and then he won a seat on the Legislative Council in
Trinidad’s first general elections. In the Legislative Council, he fought on
such key issues as “old age” pension, women’s rights, a minimum wage
and compulsory education. He served as the Mayor of Port of Spain for a
record eight terms.
Brian Lara Promenade runs through the center of Independence Square. It was
designed by Trinidad architect Colin Laird, and the promenade was laid out
between 1993 and 1995. Along the tree lined length of the Promenade can
usually be found individuals playing chess or engaging in that unique
Trinidadian activity of "liming". The placement of benches and flowering
shrubbery gives the entire area a relaxed laid-back atmosphere.
promenade was named after Brian Lara for his world record 400 runs in a
cricket Test match. Brian Lara also holds the record for the highest
individual score in first-class cricket, 501 not out. He is the only batsman
to have ever scored a hundred, a double century, a triple century, a
quadruple century and a quintuple century in first class or test cricket.
The Brian Lara Promenade runs from the sea to the Cathedral of the
Immaculate Conception and provides a scenic anchor to downtown Port of
Spain. At the western end of the promenade is a bronze statue of Brian Lara
astride the globe in one of his signature run scoring poses.
The IFC Esplanade is a place to see works of art by Trinidad's
renowned painters on the wharf or at least what used to be the wharf.
The creation of a deep water habour for Port of Spain started in 1935 and
was completed in 1939. To construct this harbour a retaining wall was built that was
3,300 feet long and ran from Mucurapo Point to the former St Vincent Street Jetty. In
addition, the seabed was dredged for 3 miles out to create the deep water for the
ships to come alongside. This project changed the look of the Port of Spain sea front as
previously the sea front had been a deeply indented Bay. With the construction of
the wall all the area behind the wall was filled to reclaim land, adding
approximately 100 acres to the city of Port of Spain. The construction of the harbour also
cut the citizens of Port of Spain off from the sea at the edge of the city.
Now the face of the waterfront has been changed again.
The removal of part of the former wharf and the establishment of an esplanade at the base
of the International Financial Centre has once again exposed the city of Port of Spain to
the sea. As a western extension of the Brian
Lara Promenade this esplanade has created a delightful space at the edge of the city
that is ideal for relaxing with family and friends. With large scale paintings by
Trinidadian artists lining the outside of the ground floor walls of the International
Financial Centre, this is a location to stroll along the pavement and admire the
works of art. The esplanade is especially enjoyable in the cool of the evenings and
beautiful at nights, with a backdrop of the sea and the ships in the channel on one side
and the lights of the high rise towers on the other plus the fountain in the center with
its alternating water jets.
The J.N. Harriman building, on the southern side of
Brian Lara Promenade on Lower Chacon
Street in Port of Spain, with its upper floor wrought iron balconies
overlooking the street gives the feeling of the French Quarter of New
Orleans especially during the early morning and late afternoon hours. This
French feeling about the building is not surprising when one considers that
between 1782 and 1797, Trinidad's population had moved from around 2,700 to
around 17,100 with the majority being French speaking inhabitants and
Harriman's traces its corporate history back to those early days of
The original business that eventually became J.N.
Harriman and Company was opened by a Frenchman named Charles Hugon who had
sailed from the French port of Bordeaux in 1803 and arrived in Port of Spain
by accident as he had intended to go to Canada. The captain of the sailing
ship put him ashore in Port of Spain and then sailed away and Hugon after
some time decided to stay in Trinidad.
When Hugon arrived in Port of Spain the sea reached up
to the southern side of what was then called
Marine Square but beginning in 1803 under Governor Chacon and continuing
up to 1832 the land on that side of the Square was reclaimed from the sea.
According to the Newsday Historical Digest of June 2000, when Hugon first
rented the space on Chacon Street to open his hardware store the area was
bush with naked Caribs camping in the area and Hugon slept in the business
place to keep away thieves. Hugon had no children and upon his retirement he
handed the business to two young men that he had taken in and they changed
the name to C&A Gerold. In 1841 the business failed but was rescued by
George Wupperman who renamed it J.N. Harriman and Company after his
son-in-law John Neilson Harriman. In 1885, the business was sold to Karl
Boos. J.N. Harriman and Company Limited is therefore probably the oldest
surviving business in Trinidad.
Just across the street from the Port
of Spain City Museum and along South Quay is the complex known as City Gate. This bus
terminus complex is indeed the transport gateway to the city of Port of Spain with
thousands of commuters passing through its hallways everyday.
The design of the building
reflects a Tuscan order in its columns.
Citigate stands on the site of the first railway station constructed in Trinidad. On
August 31st 1876 the first passenger railway in Trinidad was inaugurated, with
the train line running from Port of Spain to Arima. The service was eventually extended to
various parts of Trinidad and the railway operated until 1968.
You can find more of Trinidad's railway sites at the
Pointe-a-Pierre Railway Station,
Kings Wharf, Knolly's
Tunnel and at Harris Promenade. To learn more of the
history of Trinidad's railways, visit this site, http://www.tramz.com/tt/tt.html
The Port of Spain Lighthouse is on Wrightson Road, literally at the
entrance to the city. To fully understand the significance of the Lighthouse one has to
briefly look at the history of Port of Spain.
The Spanish established a garrison near the foot of the Laventille Hills in 1560. To
the west of the fort were several mud walled huts and ajoupas. For the next two hundred
years, there was little growth in Port of Spain. Then in 1757 Don Pedro de la Moneda
arrived as Governor and refused to go to the capital, San Jose.
His remaining in Port of Spain began the process that led to Port of Spain becoming the
capital. In 1784 Don José Maria Chacón arrived as Governor and his coming along with the
Cedula of Population, which encouraged the settlement of French Catholics in the island,
led to a rapid increase in the town's population and its geographical extension westwards.
From the small cluster of buildings at the foot of the Laventille Hills, eleven streets
were laid out west to the area bounded by the St. Ann's River. At
the time the St Ann's River (East Dry River) ran through Port of Spain along the street
that is now called Chacon Street. The sea shore was at the area known as Marine Square and in the sea was a small island on which
a fort was constructed called Fort San Andres.
Realizing that the St. Ann's River, prone to flooding, was impeding the expansion of the
town, Chacón had its course diverted in 1787 so that it ran to the east of the city,
along the foot of the Laventille Hills. In 1803, using fill from the Laventille Hills the
mudflats along the seashore were reclaimed beginning in the east in the area called Sea
Lots. The land reclamation continued westward filling the area to the south of Marine
Square. During the 1840's and 1870's the reclamation continued until in the 1880's the
area now known as South Quay was truly what its name implies, a quayside on the south of
the town at which ships could anchor.
During the 1880's in the area now known as Citigate, a jetty
was constructed called the St. Vincent Jetty. On the inner end of the jetty the present
lighthouse was constructed called the St Vincent Jetty Light. It is reported that the
light from the lighthouse was visible for up to 10 miles at sea. The continuing land
reclamation in 1906 and 1935 eventually resulted in the lighthouse becoming landlocked and
the construction of Wrightson Road in 1935 gave us the present position of the lighthouse.
When one hears the word "Fort" in a place name one immediately thinks of a
place that has military significance. The creation of Fort Chacon undoubtedly had some
military reason and it was the location to which Governor Chacon retreated when the
British invaded in 1797, however it is for geographic reasons that Fort Chacon is
Trinidads last Spanish Governor Don Jose Chacon built Fort Chacon in 1792, in the
Laventille hills overlooking Port of Spain. Around that time an expedition led by Don
Cosmo Damian Churruca had set out from Spain to
accurately map Spanish possessions in the New World. Churruca arrived in Trinidad in June
1792 and developed a detailed map of Trinidad. On 2nd January 1793 while using
Fort Chacon as an observatory, Don Churruca fixed for the first time an accurate meridian
of longitude in the New World. While in Trinidad, Churruca had fallen doubly in love, with
a young lady and with the country. As a result he later married the niece of Admiral
Apodaca and settled in Chaguaramas in 1797. Although Churruca had settled in Trinidad, he
was still a Spanish naval officer and so had to serve the king. While doing so he died at
the age of 46 at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
In order to get to the fort, a road had to be built and this road is today known as
Observatory Street. A quarter of a mile to the west of Fort Chacon is another structure
that had definitely been constructed for military reasons and that is Fort Picton.
Unfortunately most Trinidadians do not feel safe entering Laventille and so if you plan
to visit Fort Chacon, it is best to go with someone from the area.
On the Eastern Main Road on the outskirts of Port of Spain, just below the Success
Laventille Government school, exists a historical landmark. Most persons who pass this
landmark probably do not notice it or if they do, do not think of its historical
significance. Indeed to the present generation the Eastern Main Road has always been
However in the 16th, 17th and early 18th century there
was no Eastern Main Road. The main modes of transportation were the rivers and the sea.
Rivers such as the Arouca River in Lopinot, the Tacarigua River in Cauraand the St Joseph River in St Joseph
were used to get agricultural produce and people to the ocean and thence to Port of Spain.
Produce was transported down the rivers in small boats and where those rivers connected to
the Caroni River such as the Arouca River and the St Joseph River, they continued on the
Caroni River. In other cases the produce from the estates was brought to the confluence of
the St Joseph River and the Caroni River (which was known as Puerto Grande) and then
transported by boat along the Caroni River to the Gulf of Paria and thence to Port of
Spain. Thus when the beginnings of the Eastern Main Road were laid in 1785 by Governor
Jose Chacon in the form of an earthen road from Port of Spain to San Juan and later extended to Arima at the end of the 18th century it was the
beginning of a transportation revolution.
Even with the existence of the Camino Real as the Eastern Main Road was called in the
late 18th century, travel to Port of Spain from the eastern parts of the island
was an arduous affair. Travel was on horseback or by horse or mule drawn carts. Parts of
the road were rough and there were rivers to cross with no bridges.
On reaching Port of Spain both animals and people would have been exhausted from the
travel. So in 1853, during the period that Lord Harris was the British governor of
Trinidad, a horse trough was constructed along the Eastern Main Road to allow animals to
be refreshed from their tiring journey. This trough, although no longer used for providing
water for animals, still exists today and in the midst of "modern development"
is a link to our past.
CARMEL_ESTATENestled in the foothills of the Northern Range in the Maraval Valley
lies a small agricultural estate that helps us remember when the wealth of Trinidad came
not from below the ground but from what grew on it. Set deep in the valley with the hills
surrounding and a cool breeze sweeping down from the hills is Carmel Valley Estate. So
deep and hidden is this estate that you sometimes wonder if you are on the right road.
However, after a drive through the golf course and across a small stream you enter Carmel
Carmel Valley Estate produces cocoa and the owners
conduct tours through the estate explaining how cocoa is grown, harvested and ultimately
converted into chocolate. The tour includes a video on cocoa and at the end of the tour
actual hot chocolate from the estate is served. The Carmel Estate however is not a one
crop operation as the estate also produces a premium honey and includes a tour of the
apiary along with an explanation of honey production. Rabbits are reared on the estate and
you can therefore also visit the rabbit hutches. Tours of the Carmel Valley Estate must be
arranged in advance.
The north coast road leading to Maracas Bay, Las
Cuevas and Blanchissuesse is a very scenic route providing ocean views and luxuriant
tropical rain forest. It is a route that is enjoyed by most and provides easy access to
the lovely beaches and bays of Trinidads north coast. At the western end of this
road are two pillars that have become a convenient meeting point for groups on their way
to the north coast. These pillars were placed at this location by the U.S. military to
mark the fact that they had constructed the road.
The original lease agreement that gave the US military the right to establish a base in
Chaguaramas did not include the upper section of Tucker Valley and Macqueripe Bay. The
U.S. government however wanted the whole of Tucker Valley, as they believed that without
it the security of the base was threatened. Giving the U.S. military the exclusive use of
Tucker Valley would however deprive Trinidadians of the use of Macqueripe Bay which in the 1930s (and even today)
was a popular sea bathing location because of its clear waters. As a result, in a
supplemental lease consummated in December 1942, the Tucker Valley was included in the
original 99-year lease and the United States agreed to build a road on the north coast
that would enable Trinidadians to have access to the beach at Maracas Bay.
At the time the north coast was virgin forest, indeed even today much of the north
coast is still virgin forest. It was an extremely difficult task because of the
mountainous terrain with the land rising from sea level and within two miles reaching an
elevation of 1,335 feet. Construction of the road started in March 1943 and was completed
in April 1944. In building the 7 ½ mile highway to Maracas Bay, 1,000,000 cubic yards of
material was removed. Interestingly, it was not until the late 1970s that this road
was extended from Maracas Bay to Blanchisseuse.
The Maracas Bay Agri Tourism Park is an adventure in tropical
agriculture. The park has a wide range of tropical fruits and vegetables with varieties of
fruits that are not commonly seen in Trinidad and Tobago. Interspersed among the fruit
trees are ornamental plants, particularly orchids. Visitors can wander through the park
and see the different variety of trees. They even have varieties of bamboo rarely seen in
Trinidad, such as the Buddha Bamboo and the Black Bamboo. The Maracas Bay Agri Tourism
Park however offers more than just experiencing tropical agriculture. Throughout the
property are sheds laid out for fireside cooking with earthen chulas. Visitors can bring
their food to cook with the park supplying the wood. If you want an outdoor cooking
experience but do not want to do the actual cooking the park can arrange to have the food
prepared for you on site.
There is a small pond with spectacled caiman and another pond for fishing by visitors, while a
third has ornamental fish. The Maracas Bay Agri Tourism Park has a miniature nine hole
golf course where visitors can play a round of golf. A small stream runs through the
property and while it is too shallow for bathing you can dip your feet in the cool waters.
The park has a childrens area with a small swimming pool and playhouse.
Bay Agri Tourism Park is a beautiful setting with rows of fruit trees and the sheds
dotting the property while the hills of the Northern Range carpeted in forest green
enclose the entire area. With the abundance of fruit trees a wide variety of birds dart
through the park. The Park is approximately one minute from Maracas
Beach on Grand Fond Road (the road before Sams Bar) on the left. The Park is
open from 10.30 am to 6pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Situated to the immediate north of Las
Cuevas Bay on a promontory overlooking the bay are the remnants of Fort Abercromby.
Built by the British in 1804 as part of the fortification of Trinidad that included Fort
George and North Post, this was a lonely posting. In 1797 there
were only 64 persons in the Las Cuevas area and even by 1810, the population had only
grown to 114 persons. The British were concerned however about attacks from the French and
knew all too well that Las Cuevas Bay made a good place for landing ships as they had
landed there in 1750 when Trinidad was still in Spanish hands. The British also intended
that Fort Abercromby would be a place of last defense in case they lost Port of Spain,
retreating with their forces through St Joseph and over the
mountains to Las Cuevas. The road over the mountains from St Joseph still exists, although
in its present state would be considered more of an agricultural trace and is a popular
hiking route. Fort Abercromby never experienced any military action however on 7th June
1805 an officer, standing on the fort saw a large fleet approaching and
raised an alarm. A decision was taken to burn the huts, spike the guns and the entire
garrison of three officers and 50 soldiers retreated over the hills to St Joseph. The
fleet turned out to be that of the British Lord Nelson on its way to take part in the
Battle of Trafalgar in which the combined fleets of France and Spain were defeated.
The fort was never repaired after the retreat. Today Fort
Abercromby is a place of interest because of its historical significance and the fantastic
ocean views. Only two of the cannons remain and remnants of the stone walls. It is also a
popular fishing location.
One of the attractions in the village of
Blanchissuesse on Trinidad's north coast is the suspension bridge across the
Marianne River, popularly known as the Spring Bridge. This bridge has been
in existence for over 110 years and provides the only vehicle route across
the Marianne River for access to the houses and beaches that lie
beyond Blanchissuesse. The bridge consists
of four suspending cables which are fastened onto four iron pillars, two on
either side of the Marianne River. These pillars are anchored into two
columns on the river’s banks. The cables are paired one over the other and
iron rods are placed vertically between them. The top cables are loosely
stretched across the river while the bottom cables are tightly pulled and
fastened into the pillars. The iron rods anchor the top cable to the bottom
cable. The floor of the bridge is made of hard woods such as Balata.
Many people visit
Blanchisseuse simply to drive
across the bridge for the rolling motion that the bridge gives as you move
across and enjoy the ambiance of the river. That
rolling motion is a deliberate structural feature of the bridge's design
which is is intended that there be no rigidity, causing rupture in the metal.The bridge is designed to move in an undulating
motion with any weight upon it, thereby shedding and distributing the
weight, while suspended as if on springs, held up by the cables attached to
the massive pillars. That motion as if on springs is also why the bridge is
sometimes called the Spring Bridge.
The bridge was installed in Blanchissuesse
in 1956 with construction starting in 1955. Although this bridge has been
associated with Blanchissuesse it was not originally placed in
Blanchissuesse but in fact came to Trinidad in 1898 to cross the Ortoire
River and provide access to the village of Mayaro. After serving the Mayaro
community for over 50 years the bridge was dismantled and transported to the
Blanchissuesse. This bridge is one of only two such suspension bridges in
Trinidad with the other being on the La
Ruffin River in Moruga.
In February 2012, the Government of
Trinidad and Tobago closed the bridge to vehicle traffic as they indicated
that the bridge was in need of repairs, although pedestrian crossings are
Along the Santa Cruz Old Road, on the northern edges of San Juan, is a
statue of a male Amerindian with the words La Venezuela inscribed around the pedestal on
which the statue stands. The statue has long been a landmark in the area and a housing
development has been created in the area, taking its name, La Venezuela Gardens, from the
inscription. Although most of the residents of San Juan are familiar with the statue,
discovering its origins has been difficult.
According to one resident of La Venezuela Gardens, oral tradition
indicates that there was a Spanish settlement in the area and these settlers had developed
friendly relations with the Amerindians who inhabited the Santa Cruz valley. Unfortunately
this relationship deteriorated and the Amerindians planned an attack on the settlement.
The settlers were warned of the attack by a male Amerindian and so either managed to
escape or ward off the attack. In gratitude for the warning the settlers erected the
statue which still stands today.
The veracity of this account is difficult to verify, however there are
certain facts that we know. The Santa Cruz valley was inhabited by Amerindians of the
Nepuyo sub-tribe and in 1790 when Governor Jose Maria Chacon established the settlement of
San Juan the area was known by the Amerindian name of Aricagua. Indicators of Amerindian
and Spanish settlement were found in the area when the La Venezuela Gardens houses were
being constructed with Amerindian artifacts being found when the foundations were dug and
also Spanish artifacts including a musket.
We also know that the Amerindians in Trinidad were not all happy with the
invasion of their island by foreigners and certainly attacked the Spanish to drive them
from Trinidad. In 1531 when the Spanish conquistador Sedeno attempted
to settle in Trinidad, he was attacked and repulsed at Mucarapo Bay. Two more attempts by
Sedeno were repulsed by the natives and it was only on the fourth attempt, when Sedeno
brought horses that he succeeded. In 1595, the Amerindians joined forces with Walther
Raleigh to attack St. Joseph. This resistance by the Amerindians continued with an attack
on St Joseph in 1637 by Hyarima, a
cacique of the Nepuyo sub-tribe. There was also the killing of the Capuchin priests in
1699 by the Amerindians in the event that has become known as the Arena massacre. As such
the possibility of an Amerindian attack in the la Venezuela area is likely. We can also
surmise that any attack was likely to have taken place before 1785, as in that year the
first land grants in Santa Cruz was made by Chacon and also we know that the Amerindians
were rounded up in 1785, especially from Arouca and Tacarigua, and moved to Arima. Should any additional information be available about
this statue, this web site would be happy to receive it.
The statue is not the only mystery item or place of interest at La
Venezuela Gardens as there are also a old gazebo and concrete structure.
The concrete structure looks as though it may have been a large table but
also looks as if it may have been a large bath.
On 15th May 1592 a Spanish conquistador Domingo de Vera,
under orders from the Governor Don Antonio de Berrio y Oruna, established the first town,
San Jose de Oruna in the area now known as St Joseph. Four buildings were erected, a
Government House (Casa Real), a Town Hall (Cabildo), a prison and a catholic church. The Catholic Church still stands on
the site of the first church. St. Joseph remained the capital of Trinidad until 1784, when
Governor Jose Maria Chacon declared Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad.
San Jose was twice completely destroyed and rebuilt. In 1595 Walter
Raleigh in an alliance with the Amerindians, which included the Chaguanese tribe, attacked
and burnt the town. The town was destroyed again in a Dutch raid in 1649, when the Dutch
allied themselves with Chief Hyarima. The Chaguaramas Military History Museum has a
reenactment of the sacking of San Jose in 1595.
Two other notable events in the history of St Joseph occurred in 1797
and 1837. When Trinidad fell to the British in 1797, Governor Chacon fled to St Joseph and
the Capitulation agreement was signed in the great house of Valsayn estate. In 1837 there
was a mutiny by members of the Third West India Regiment led by a former slave Daaga. The
mutiny was quickly put down and the leaders, Daaga, Ogson and Coffin were tried, condemned
and executed on 16th August 1837.
St. Joseph today is a quiet, mainly residential, area on many of whose
streets can still be seen old homes from the colonial era. These old buildings, while not
as expansive as the Port of Spain mansions are lovely
examples of colonial architecture.
The name brings to mind the dam that never was. Caura is an adaptation of
the Arawak word 'Cuara' that meant heavily wooded valley. It is a valley that lies along
the Northern Range, five miles north of Tacarigua, accessed from the Eastern Main Road via
the Caura Royal Road. Records from 1750 show this valley was populated by the Arawaks. After the Cedula of 1783, Governor José Maria
Chacon granted land in this valley, to the mainly French Catholic incoming settlers with
their African slaves. With the British capture of Trinidad in 1797, nineteen lots were
marked out, representing a strip which began from the entrance of the Caura Valley and
leading right up to the headwaters of the Tacarigua River, which from this point became
the Caura River. The richness of the land, the coolness of the valley and the ability to
use the river caused Caura to prosper with the growth of cocoa and coffee. It was an
enclave in which the principal languages were French and Spanish.
In 1943, the government, under Governor Sir Bede Clifford, acquired all the land in and
around the village of Caura for thepurpose of building a dam to supply the entire
north of Trinidad with water. The plan included the damming of the Caura River to create a
300-acre lake in the area that was the village. All the inhabitants were relocated with
the majority going to Lopinot. On August 15th 1945 during the last
mass at the parish church the priest called on the wrath of God and declared that the dam
would never be constructed. On November 14th 1945, the church was dynamited by the
Government and construction started on the dam. The construction was plagued with
controversy and conflict, with charges of graft, bribery and corruption. Randolph Miles,
the father of Gene Miles was the individual who exposed the corruption. In April 1947, the
new governor, Sir John Shaw expressed reservation about the project and had a Jesuit
priest, who was a dam expert, review the project. The review showed that the substratum
could not support the dam and the project was cancelled.
Today Caura is a valley relatively empty of human habitation, with a crystal clear
river running through it and natural vegetation on the hillsides. In the area that was
formerly Caura Village can be seen the unfinished pump house and water sluices. The entire
length of the Caura River is now used for camping and recreational bathing.
Twenty minutes drive from the Eastern Main Road in Arouca is a small
museum and park dedicated to the memory of Charles Joseph Count de Lopinot. Count de
Lopinot arrived in Trinidad in 1800 after fighting alongside the British in an attempt to
stop the Haitian Revolution under Toussaint L'Ouverture. Some time between 1804 and 1805
the Count was given permission to select a parcel of land and set out up the Arouca River.
After 5 miles up the river he discovered a wide flat plain in the midst of the narrow
steep sided heavily forested valley. We now know that the flat plain is caused by
extensive beds of limestone that run through the Northern Range from Diego Martin almost
to Toco and cause the flat areas in many of the Northern Range valleys. The Count was
granted land in the valley and established a cocoa estate. Over time the valley came to be
referred to as Lopinot.
The museum is located on the grounds of the former estate and is in the
style of the 1800's. Around the museum are large shady Samaan trees with picnic benches
underneath. Nearby is a small cemetery in which the Count and his wife are buried. Across
from the museum is the Lopinot Community Center where local handicraft items can be
purchased on some days. The Arouca River runs alongside the property and a short walk
takes you to the river bank where large bamboo clumps provide shade. The river bank in
this area is a lovely spot for picnics (visit the Photo Gallery for
To see other photographs of the Lopinot Museum grounds, visit our Photo Gallery and
enter the search term "Lopinot". Also to be visited in the Lopinot area are the La Pastora Chapel with its La
Divina Pastora statue and the La
Veronica church for which many of the items were transferred from Caura.
The Lopinot valley still retains much of the natural forest cover and there are several hiking trails through the valley.
While many of our museums have Amerindian artifacts, the
Museum at Cleaver Woods is dedicated to Amerindian culture. This small museum contains
tools that the Amerindians would have used in their every day life and shows how many of
our present practices are derived from Amerindian culture.
The museum also has a modified version of a
clay oven. At
the museum one can learn that our Amerindian forefathers were much more than the simple
subdivision between Caribs and Arawaks. In Trinidad there were several sub-tribes
consisting of Nepuyo, Lokono (also called Aruaca), Kalinago, Yaio, Chaima, Warao
(Warrahoon, Guaraunos, Guarahoon), Kalipuna, Carinepogoto, Garini, and the Chaguanes.
Situated on the Arima Old Road between DAbadie
, the museum is set in a
pine forest with picnic tables and ajoupas throughout the property. There are short trails
for cool walks through the forest. On the museum grounds, in addition to the pine trees,
there are other local trees that have labels to allow visitors to be able to identify
them. Across the road from the museum grounds is also a pine forest where tables and
benches have been placed allowing more people to picnic and enjoy nature.
Arima, in eastern Trinidad, has traditionally been associated with
Amerindian culture in Trinidad and the name is believed to be an Amerindian word. The
exact meaning of the word however has been open to debate. The traditional view was that
the "Arima" means place with plenty water. It has also been expounded that name
is taken from a particular plan used by the Amerindians to stun fish while in the water
and this plant was plentiful in the Arima district.
In 1757, the Capuchin priests founded a mission at Arima and in 1786, the
Spanish Governor Don Jose Chacon transferred all the Nepuyo Amerindians from Tacarigua and
Arouca to the mission at Arima. At the time of the transfer it was decreed that the lands
around Arima would be given to the Amerindians in perpetuity. With the British conquest of
Trinidad in 1797, Governor Ralph Woodford continued the decree that the lands around Arima
were Amerindian property and non-Amerindians were not to live at the mission.
Unfortunately after the death of Woodford in 1828, the subsequent governors were not
concerned about preserving that decree.
Today, one of the reminders of Arima's Amerindian heritage is the statue
of Chief Hyarima (also called Hierryma) that is at the western
entrance to the town along the Eastern Main Road and opposite to the Arima Hospital.
Hyarima was a cacique of the Nepuyo sub-tribe who allied himself with the Dutch who were
based in Tobago and had established forts on the northeast and south coasts of Trinidad.
In 1637, Hyarima along with the Dutch attacked St Joseph, the
capital at the time, in an attempt to force the Spanish out of Trinidad. The date of
Hyarima's attack was 14th October and that day is now celebrated each year in Trinidad as
Amerindian Heritage Day.
Other reminders of the Amerindian heritage are the Ajoupas on Calvary Hill
and the Santa Rosa Festival.
The most well known landmark in Arima is a clock called The Dial. It was
given as gift to the citizens of Arima and the Borough in 1898 by the Mayor
John Francis Wallen. When the Dial was originally installed a stream that ran through the
town powered its machinery. Over the years the internal mechanisms have been updated and
the present Dial is electrically operated.
It is well known that Arima started life as an Amerindian Mission
in 1757 and the land at the Mission was supposed to remain in Amerindian possession for
eternity. Now almost 300 years later the city of Arima has grown tremendously and most
individuals would not know where the city started from or what was the land that had been
given to the Amerindians. To find the starting point for Arima, one has to remember that
the Mission was founded by Spanish Capuchin priests and as was their custom the Spanish
laid out their towns around a central plaza that usually had the church as the focal
point. In 1786, Governor Don Jose Chacon organised the rebuilding of the church, now known
as the Santa Rosa Catholic Church, and
placed Manuel Sorzano in charge of laying out the streets of the Mission.
The Santa Rosa Church was therefore the focal point of the Mission and the church fronted
onto a plaza. In 1846 after the British capture of Trinidad, Lord George Francis Robert
Harris was appointed Governor of Trinidad. Lord Harris, developed a "special"
relationship with the Amerindians, patronizing the Santa Rosa Festival, providing them
with small gifts and he had trees planted to beautify the square in front of the church.
The Amerindians developed a liking for Lord Harris and decided to name the park after him.
At the time, this central square dominated the Mission, with the Church located on the
eastern side and the homes of the Amerindians located along the other sides, along with
orchards, a small market, and later schools. The land which had been given to the
Amerindians on the Mission of Arima, in part as compensation for the lands that were taken
from them when they were moved out of Caura, Arouca, and Tacarigua amounted to 1,000 acres
bordering on Lord Harris Square and another 320 acres on the southern slope of Calvary Hill, facing Lord Harris Square.
Today, Lord Harris Square in Arima is bounded by Sanchez Street, Church Street, Woodford
Street and Queen Street. It is directly facing the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church and
now hemmed in by the Arima Boys RC Primary School, the Arima Girls RC Primary School and
the Arima Government Primary School. The Lord Harris Square in Arima is one of several
places in Trinidad that have been named after Lord Harris. Other such places are Harris Promenade in San Fernando and Lord Harris Square in Port of Spain.
Calvary Hill begins from the Santa Rosa
Catholic Church at Lord Harris Square and
ascends to the north of Arima. The fact that the church is at the base of the hill, seems
to suggest that the name was drawn from the Bible and that suggestion is enhanced by the
fact that there are 14 stations of the cross on the road leading up the hill. On Good
Friday many Catholics perform devotions by moving from station to station and performing
prayers at each station.
The top of Calvary Hill provides a magnificent view. To the north are the green clothed
mountains of the Northern Range. To the east one has an unimpeded view of the coast, while
to the south and west, there is the city of Arima and then views of the plains all the way
to the Central Range. The area on the top of the hill has been made into a small park with
two carat roofed ajoupas, benches and a cannon.
The cannon on Calvary Hill has special significance to people of
Amerindian descent. During the first period that Lord Harris was Governor of Trinidad
(1846 to 1854), he gave a cannon to the Amerindians to be placed on Calvary Hill. The
cannon was used to announce the start of the Santa Rosa Festival at 6:00am on August 1st
of each year. The existing cannon which was manufactured in 1794 is a replacement for the
original cannon given by Lord Harris. The blasting of the cannon continues to this day as
part of the Santa Rosa festival. The Amerindian community also holds a Smoke Ceremony on
Calvary Hill, which is a ritual designed to praise the earth, the ancestors, family,
friends and St Rose.
Within the Arena forest, not far from the Arena Dam is the site of a confrontation
that occurred in 1699 between the Amerindians and Spanish settlers. This event over the
years has been called the Arena Massacre, however more modern thought is beginning to view
this as an uprising against oppression and cultural imperialism.
What is known is that on December 1, 1699, the Amerindians who worked the
encomienda (state farm) for the Catholic mission church at Arena, while being required to
build a new church at a site in the Arena forest, killed the priests in charge, desecrated
the church and mutilated the ornaments of the church. The bodies of the priests Father
Marco, Father Estevan and Brother Ramon were thrown in a ditch and the Indians fled to the
bush. Along the way they met the governor of the colony, Don Jose (not Don Jose Chacon)
who had come to visit the mission that day and killed him and his party.
The Indians took to the bush, ambushing the governor of the colony who had
come to visit the mission that day. They killed him and his party and escaped into the Nariva Swamp. The Spanish authorities hunted down
the Amerindians. While in the Nariva Swamp 20 of them were tracked down and killed. The
Amerindians were eventually cornered on the east coast of the island and it is believed
that some of them jumped to their death at Galera Point
rather than be captured. Eighty four of the Amerindians were taken prisoner and brought
back to St Joseph for trial. Twenty two of the adult men were hanged in the
public square at San Jose, the capital. The bodies were then
decapitated, dismembered and strewn on the roadside to serve as a deterrent to other
Amerindians who wanted to resist. The women and children were given as slaves to Spanish
inhabitants of the colony.
Sixteen months after burial the bodies of the priests were
dug up from the graves at Arena and transferred to St Joseph Catholic Church. It is
said that the bodies were still intact and had not decomposed. In 1989 the burial spot at
the St Joseph church was excavated and the remains transferred to the Catholic church at
Today it is possible to visit the site at Arena and while
there is not much to see at the site, it is historically significant. When you visit the
site with the forest surrounding you and birds chirping in the trees plus parrots flying
overhead, there is a feeling of being transported back to an earlier age, whether you
cheer for the Amerindians as tragic figures resisting Spanish colonialism or pray for the
priests as martyrs.
To visit the site you turn south off the Churchill
Roosevelt Highway onto Tumpuna Road and drive for 2.1 kilometers and turn right on the
road that runs along the side of the warehouse complex. You then drive for 2.0 kilometers
and turn left at the San Rafael Catholic Church. You proceed for 1.2 kilometers to a Y
junction and go on the right for 2 kilometers to Barker Trace. From the time you turn off
the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway there are signs directing you to Arena Dam and you simply
have to follow the Arena Dam signs until you reach to Barker Trace. At Barker Trace there
is a sign pointing to the Arena Historical site. You go along Barker Trace for 0.2
kilometers and you will encounter a track on the left that leads up a slight incline.
There is a Rotary Club sign at the start of the tract identifying the site.
Hidden in the folds of the Northern Range lies the eco-tourism gem of
Brasso Seco. To get to Brasso Seco you head east on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and
just after the Santa Rosa housing development you turn onto Demerara Road and then across
the Eastern Main Road and onto the Arima Bye Pass Road. The Arima Bye Pass Road merges
onto the Blanchisseuse-Arima Road. Asa
Wright Nature Center is reached after 13 kilometers (20 minutes driving time). It is a
twisting mountain road and as you ascend, it becomes distinctly cooler and fern growth
increases. At particular sections along the road, dependent upon the weather, you are
immersed in clouds. Brasso Seco Junction is reached approximately 40 minutes after
crossing the Eastern Main Road (19.3 kilometers). An alternate route is to begin the drive
along the Blanchisseuse-Arima Road from the village of Blanchisseuse and the Brasso Seco Junction is
reached after 45 minutes driving. At the Brasso Seco Junction you turn onto the Brasso
Seco Road and descend in a twenty minute drive to the village of Brasso Seco.
The name Brasso Seco means dry branch and this referred to the fact that
prior to the 1900's the area was virgin forest with little agricultural produce. The
introduction of cocoa and coffee changed the area with numerous estates being developed.
The region has one of the highest precipitation levels in Trinidad with over 100 inches of
rainfall each year. As you descend to the village there are numerous rivulets of crystal
clear water flowing down the mountainside in tiny caverns etched from the rock face by
eons of flowing water.
In the 1960's the fall of cocoa prices caused many cocoa estates to be
abandoned. Today, some estates are being revived with cocoa, coffee, banana, citrus and
christophene. Brasso Seco is a small village with an estimated 200 houses scattered
throughout the valley. The forest descends down the hillsides, with the estates
interspersed throughout the valley. This blend of virgin rainforest with estates of mainly
tree crops creates a haven for tropical birds making Brasso Seco into a birdwatching
paradise. The numerous agricultural roads and trails makes it easy to wander along the
roads and spot many species. The area is home to the only endemic bird species in
Trinidad, the Trinidad Piping Guan (Pawi) and rare species such as the Little Tinamou and
Large-billed Seedfinch are also seen. Many of the hummingbird species are seen in the
area, along with Toucans, Orioles,
Oropendolas and Manakins.
Brasso Seco is known in Trinidad as the start of the hike to Paria Bay and
the Paria Waterfall, with some hikers
continuing along the North Coast
Trail to Matelot. The area however has 11 waterfalls and three of the largest caverns in Trinidad. Interested persons
can call 669 6218 to speak to any member of the Brasso Seco Tourism
Action Committee to arrange hikes to the numerous attractions that the area offers. The
area is at the head of the Marianne and Paria valleys and leads to the wonders of the
A major activity in Brasso Seco is the Harvest Festival which is held annually in May.
Many of the villagers from along Trinidad's North coast gather in the village and
agricultural produce is brought from all around. To learn more about Brasso Seco and its
attractions, visit the Brasso
Seco Paria Eco Tourism Web Site.
The video below provides clips of the drive to Brasso
Seco from Blanchissuesse.
The Valencia Visitor Center is located on the western
outskirts of the village of Valencia along the Eastern Main Road. A simple
squat building that from the exterior does not divulge what lies inside.
This visitor center is one of the best projects conceived by the Ministry of
Tourism and is devoted to eco-tourism in Trinidad. Sited at what can be
considered the gateway to the Trinidad's eastern and north-eastern coasts
this centre seeks to encourage respect for the natural environment,
development of eco-tourism and information about Trinidad's natural
Within the Center there is presently a refreshment area, toilets, a meeting
hall, craft shop and a visitor information office. The information office as
the name implies provides information on the attractions in Trinidad and
Tobago. As the eastern and north-eastern coasts of Trinidad are the sites
for the nesting of a variety
of sea turtles the center provides information brochures on these
turtles in Trinidad and also on the
nesting of the turtles in Tobago and seeks to encourage measures for the
protection of the turtles along with the appropriate viewing procedures. One
of the highlights of a visit to the Valencia Visitor Center is the
photographic collage that adorns three walls of the visitor information
office. This collage depicts many of the eco-tourism attractions in Trinidad
and an enjoyable time can be had simply trying to identify the places
and fauna in the collage.
Throughout the Center there are replicas of Trinidad's wildlife and it takes
close examination to realize that these are not real stuffed animals nor are
they plastic reproductions. Indeed these depictions of wildlife are either
wood carvings or created by assembling and painting wood to produce an image
of our fauna.
The visitor center is open every day of the week from 9am each day. While
the Center in its present form is an attraction for anyone traveling to the
east there is even more development slated with a local food court being
constructed plus a picnic area for the grounds around the Center and along
the banks of the river that runs behind the Center.
Up to the 1940s the only road linking Port of Spain to the eastern parts of the
island was the Eastern Main Road, that had begun life in 1785 under Governor Jose Chacon
as the Camino Real (Royal Road) linking Port of Spain with San Jose (St
Joseph). The road was later extended to Arima when the
Amerindian mission was established there. This narrow road was often congested as all
traffic from the eastern estates and towns flowed along this route.
The advent of World War II led to the lend lease agreement between Britain and the
United States of America under which Britain granted land in Trinidad to the U.S. for the
establishment of U. S. military bases. In 1941, U.S. forces arrived in Trinidad and
proceeded to establish bases at Chaguaramas
and Cumuto plus construct an airstrip at Piarco and develop a deep-water harbour at the
port of Port of Spain. The additional traffic that the Americans added to the Eastern Main
Road made travel on this road a tortuous affair. Thus the Americans decided to construct a
road that led from Port of Spain to their base at Cumuto, which was called Fort Read.
Construction started in December 1941 and the road was completed in May 1942. From the
completion of its construction until the end of the war in 1945, this road was only for
the use of the American military and Trinidadian vehicles were not allowed on the road.
The road was called the Churchill Roosevelt Highway to commemorate the conference in
August 1941 that had taken place between the British leader Winston Churchill and the
American leader Franklin Roosevelt. The road began on the western edge of Barataria and
went up to the area of the present Santa Rosa housing development. As a memorial the
Americans constructed the two pillars that are seen opposite Santa Rosa.
While that explains the pillars at the Arima (western) end, what is the reason for the
pillars at Valencia? One now often forgotten fact was that the American forces also has a
base in Manzanilla, in the area that is now called North
Manzanilla. This base was a jungle warfare training camp and indeed was the first
Jungle Warfare School established by the U.S. Army. The Americans therefore extended the
eastern end of their highway to connect with the Eastern Main Road at Valencia and so
ultimately provide a land communication route with their Manzanilla base and other bases
on the east coast. To mark their road they constructed the two pillars that are today seen
at Valencia Junction. To learn more about the American military presence in Trinidad
during World War II see our section on Former U.S.
Along the Valencia Road, shortly after the popular
camping and river lime location, is the Pius Holdings
Park. It is on the southern side of the road, with a small sign on
the gate announcing its presence. Mining regulations in
Trinidad and Tobago require that when licensees cease their quarrying
operations they must rehabilitate the land. The Pius Holdings Park is an
excellent example of an owner restoring the land after completing quarrying
The area is a former gravel quarry that has been converted
into a park. The center piece of the property is an
area that has been created for groups to cook, picnic and relax. There
is a large hut with grills for cooking and there are benches with
picnic tables interspersed around this central area. The
central relaxation area fronts onto a small lake and there are foot paths throughout for leisurely walks
. At the southern end of the property a clear river runs
through the land, allowing those who desire the opportunity for a river
bath. The rest of the property has been converted
into a mixed farm, where horses are stabled, chickens and ducks reared and
some fruit trees grown. The property
is open everyday from 7am to 3pm and can be contacted at 667-9484.
Upon the abolition of slavery, planters in the West Indies sought a source of cheap
labour and as a result developed the system of indentured labour. During the period 1837
to 1917, approximately 100,000 labourers were transported from India to the West Indies.
In the case of Trinidad, the first Indian indentured laborers, 217 individuals, arrived on
30th May 1845 aboard the ship, Fatel Rozack. Although the first group landed at the Port
of Spain Harbour, subsequent groups were first interned at Nelson
The Indian Caribbean Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of these
labourers. Housed in a former primary school, the first impression gained on entering the
museum is an abundance of photographs. These photographs not only show the early laborers
in all aspects of their daily lives but also provide a glimpse into the physical makeup of
Trinidad in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other exhibits include
musical instruments, agricultural tools, cooking utensils, clothing and books. The museum
also has an art gallery, reference library and genealogical database.
Located on Orange Field Road in Waterloo, the museum is just after
the Hanuman Mandir and just before the Temple in the Sea. It is open from
Wednesday to Sunday between 10 am and 5 pm and admission is free.
Many individuals believe that the only vestiges of Trinidad and Tobago's
part in World War 2 are in Chaguaramas. However scattered around
Trinidad, often unrecognized, are items from the last World War. The entry
of the United States into the war in 1942 made shipping a target for German
submarines. Between April and September 1942, German submarines had sunk
five ships with cargo intended for Trinidad. German submarines attacked
ships throughout the Caribbean and even slipped into harbors to shell shore
targets and to sink cargo ships at anchor. By the end of 1942 U-boats
operating in the Caribbean had sunk 336 ships. Protecting the ships that
passed through Trinidad's waters was therefore of critical importance. The
Gulf of Paria is the largest natural harbour in the Western Hemisphere, so
it was the terminus of the North Atlantic convoy route. Bauxite brought
bauxite from Surinam and Guyana for shipment to the U.S. for making aluminum
for the war effort passed through the Gulf of Paria. In addition, during
World War II, Pointe-A-Pierre had the largest oil refinery in the British
Empire. It was therefore important to protect this source of refined
petroleum products to ensure continued supplies for the war effort.
part of the defense effort for Trinidad, a series of watch towers were
constructed around the country. These towers were placed near the coast line
to provide locations to spot the presence of enemy ships or submarines.
Another of their roles was to try to prevent the entry of German spies. With
Trinidad being so close to the South American mainland and having US bases
plus a history of persons clandestinely traveling between Trinidad and
Venezuela it was believed that German spies often came to Trinidad. Indeed
there is one story of Germans slipping into Trinidad during the war to
attend a movie in Port of Spain. In all 178 watch towers were constructed
around Trinidad. One group, which today we might find surprising, but which
played a role as coastal watchers operating from the watch towers were the
Boy Scouts. The British MI5 trained Boy Scouts to watch from the towers and
to function as signalers.
One of the remaining watch towers is found on the former Perseverance Estate
that now forms part of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. Today the tower is
dwarfed by the piping and towers of the various petrochemical plants on the
industrial estate but at the time of its construction it would have been the
tallest building in the immediate vicinity with an unobstructed view of the
The Perseverance Watch Tower is located on the Farmland Road in the Point
Lisas Industrial Estate just before the Point Lisas Nitogen Limited plant.
You can learn more about Trinidad's involvement in World War 2 in our
section, US Army Bases in Trinidad.
Many individuals think of La Vega Estate simply as a place to get beautiful
ornamental plants but this 250 acre estate nestled in the rolling hills of
Central Trinidad on the outskirts of Gran Couva is also a recreational
centre. The estate is a plant nursery and has orchards of exotic fruit, so
it is a working farm and yet the recreational areas have been so neatly
woven into the farm that when in those areas you do not realise that you are
on a farm.
La Vega Estate seeks to cater for a wide variety of interests. Those who
desire quiet relaxation in solitude can find it at the Bamboo Nursery and
Garden of Mediation. Here open sided carat huts have been placed amid bamboo
groves with a small stream winding its way through the area.
For those seeking a more active form of relaxation there is a sports field
and nature trails for hiking and mountain biking. The sections of the estate
however that draw the most people are the water areas. La Vega Estate has
three large water areas, Red Pond, Lousade Pond
and Lake George and these are definitely star attractions.
Around each of these areas, open sided carat huts have been tastefully
placed so that you can relax in comfort with a view of the water while you
picnic. There is fishing in all three water areas with poles that are rented
from the estate and you can also rent paddle boats for paddling on Lake
While you can drive to the various areas, walking is much more pleasant. On
the estate you can feel the soft breeze caress your skin and hear the wind
whispering through the trees. La Vega has neatly landscaped grounds with
shade trees throughout and large boulders in places looking like sculptures.
La Vega is also a good place for bird watching. The varied habitat of
forest, fruit orchards, freshwater ponds encourages a variety of species. In
the quiet of the early morning there is a constant chirping from the trees,
with small birds zipping past. Lousade Pond and Lake George are good spots
for birding and between these two areas it is possible to see over 22
different species of birds including:
Great White Heron
White Tipped Dove
Yellow Rumped Cacique
White Winged Swallow
If you are lucky in the mornings you can also see Iguana and Taegu Lizards
on the grass.
Vega Estate is 10 kilometers or 20 minutes drive from the Gran Couva exit on
the Solomon Hochoy Highway and the road to the estate is well sign posted.
Trinidadians love to provide stories of supernatural beings that lure the unsuspecting
or unwary. Several areas have a story of a headless horseman that is only seen at night.
Along the Solomon Hochoy Highway in the vicinity of the Claxton Bay Exit, tales are told
of motorists who see a young lady walking across the highway directly in front of them.
Providing an interesting addition to this story is the statue of a young lady that is
located immediately before the exit, on a low hill on the western side of the highway near
to the TSTT cell tower.
The legend behind the statue is that during the early 20th century, when
Indian indentured labour was still used in Trinidad, there was a plantation in the
vicinity operated by a Spanish family. The daughter of the plantation owner, Maria, had
fallen in love with an Indian labourer and the two lovers had planned to get married. It
is said that the father saw the two lovers together, realized the relationship and became
furious. That night the father beat his daughter and told her to end the relationship.
Maria refused and said that she would rather die. The father then told his other workers
to kill the labourer. Maria heard of her fathers plan and ran to tell her lover. On
crossing the road, she was bitten by a snake but driven by love she continued running.
Weakened however by the snake bite, she fell to her death from the hill next to the road.
Her father overcome by grief built a statue on the hill where she died. It is therefore
said that the apparition, seen crossing the highway at night, is Maria trying to reach her
The Lion House on the northern side of the Chaguanas Main Road, shortly after the
market is not only of architectural significance but also of historical and cultural
significance. This white, four storied, trapezoid shaped (a four sided figure with only
one pair of parralel sides) building is eye catching and has been a landmark in Chaguanas
for more than 8 decades. In 1894, at age 21, a man called Capildeo emigrated from the
state of Uttar Pradesh in India to Trinidad to work as an indentured labourer at
Woodford Lodge sugar estate in Chaguanas. Shortly after his arrival in Trinidad
an overseer pays for him to get out of his indentureship and he marries Soogee Gobin,
whose parents give them a wedding present of the land on which the house stands. In
1923, Pundit Capildeo begins construction of the house making the bricks himself.
Unfortunately Capildeo never lived to fully enjoy the completed building. In 1926,
Capildeo completed the house and left to visit India and died during that visit.
Capildeo based the design of the house on a style found in North India in the town of
Gorakpur. He made the walls one foot thick and adorned the inner walls with various
murtis. On completion of the building he called it Anand Bhavan, which translated
means the Mansion of Bliss. On the western and eastern sides of the first floor
Capildeo placed two concrete lions and it is these two lions that have given this house
its popular name "the Lion House".
Prior to constructing the house the Capildeo's operated a store on the land and then in
the 1940's the property was rented to the Patel's who operated a store on the ground floor
called the Lion Store. After the Lion Store ceased operation, a drug store was operated on
the premises. In 1961
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, the grandson of Capildeo, immortalized the Lion House in his Book "A House
for Mr Biswas" by using it as the building he called Hanuman House in which a store
The art of pottery making has been practiced in Trinidad from its first
inhabitants. The Amerindians of the Saladoid people who migrated from Venezuela to
Trinidad between 250 BC and 600 AD were the first potters in Trinidad. It was however the
arrival of the Indian indentured laborers that led to the expansion of pottery making in
Trinidad. These East Indian indentured labourers made pottery for their daily use with
items such as bowls, cups, pitchers. Over time pottery making has reduced but is still a
vibrant industry and the heart of the pottery industry is along the Southern Main Road
between Chase Village and Chaguanas, especially in the village of Edinburgh.
In Edinburgh potters shops
are found at the side of the road with some of the shops having been in operation for over
100 years. The clay used by these potters is brought from varied parts of Trinidad
such as Carlsen Field, Valencia, Tabaquite and Rio Claro and then worked int a variety of
objects. While the designs continue to include everyday household items the range of items
has broadened to include wind chimes, ceiling lights, souvenirs, flower pots, candle
holders, deyas and other religious items. Apart from the pleasure of viewing and
purchasing items made from natural environmentally friendly materials a visit to these
pottery outlets gives you an opportunity to see the process of pottery making as in most
cases the objects are converted from clay to pottery on site.
Located within the Petrotrin complex at Pointe-a-Pierre is the
refurbished Pointe-a-Pierre train station. Situated in the midst of a grove of Samaan
trees, the refurbished train station is on the exact spot where the original station was
located. As you wander in and out of the rooms you can see exactly where the original
train line ran with the trains stopping directly in front of the station.
The railway line began going through this area in 1882 and would have
carried produce from the estates to the wharf in San Fernando. In 1885, the station was
built. The station would have reached its heyday in passenger traffic when the
Pointe-a-Pierre oil refinery was being built. The station closed in 1965 with the
"last train to San Fernando".
On the station grounds one can also find numerous items of oilfield
equipment from the 1950's. As you walk in the shade of the trees you can read the small
plaques on each item that explain what the item is and where it came from. Viewing these
pieces of heavy machinery provides further insight into the history of Trinidad's oil fields.
"Last train to San Fernando" are the words to the chorus of a
popular calypso. During the period 1876 to
1968, train travel was a popular method of transportation used by all sections of the
population. Although train travel in Trinidad is no more, you can still see one of the
early steam locomotives displayed on Harris Promenade in San Fernando in south
Trinidad. The area in which the locomotive stands is actually the original location
of the starting point and terminus for the first railway established in Trinidad, called
the Cipero Tramway. This train line ran from San Fernando to Princes Town, with the
carriages being drawn by horses or mules. Below is a
video of that last train to San Fernando.
Harris Promenade is named after Lord Harris who was governor from 1846
to1856 and holds the distinction along with Woodford of being the only British Governors
who served two terms in Trinidad, as Woodford served from 1812 to 1828. Another public
place named after Governor Harris is Lord Harris Square
in Port of Spain. In 1846 Lord Harris gave land to the San Fernando Town Council for the
erection of public buildings and as a promenade for the people to enjoy. The individual
however that actually developed Harris Promenade was Robert Guppy who came from England in
1839. He was a lawyer and civil engineer and was the Mayor of San Fernando on nine
occasions. Guppy laid out a wide walkway in the centre of two carriage roads and planted
Samaan trees to provide shade.
In keeping with Lord Harris's dictum of use for public buildings, a
Roman Catholic Church was constructed on the Promenade, being completed in 1849. As French
was widely spoken at the time, the church was called "Notre Dame de Bons Secours".
(Our Lady of Good Help). A Town Hall was constructed in 1853 on the site of the present City Hall. In March 1874, a new Court House was inaugurated on Harris Promenade on
the site of the present San Fernando police headquarters. In July 1874, the foundation
stone of St Paul's Anglican Church was laid towards the Chancery Lane end of Harris
Promenade. This church, too, is on the same spot today. In January 1919, the Andrew
Carnegie - free library was opened at the eastern end of the Promenade.
In 1852, the San Fernando Town Hall was near the corner of Chacon Street and High
Street but was in rented premises in a location that was subject to flooding. As a result
in 1852 the Town Council petitioned for and was granted Crown land on Harris Promenade at
the corner of Penitence Street. In 1853 construction was started and completed in 4 months
at a cost of $3,000
The original building was a wooden structure and by 1930 it was considered unsuitable.
As a result the structure was demolished and the present building erected on the same
site. In the foyer of the City Hall is a brass bell. This bell was the only item recovered
from the Lady Mc Leod which sank off the coast of Vistabella in 1854. The SS Lady Mc
Leod had gone into service in the 1840's and transported mail and passengers between Port
of Spain and San Fernando. In 1847 the owner, David Bryce began issuing stamps to cover
the cost of the postage, with the stamps showing an image of the ship. Today those stamps
are worth thousands of dollars more than their original five cents.
The Divisional Headquarters for the southern division of the Trinidad and Tobago Police
Service is located at the western end of Harris Promenade
across from St Pauls Church and obliquely opposite the San Fernando Town Hall. Records indicate that as early
as 1853 there was a Police Post in San Fernando at that location on Harris Promenade.
Construction of the present building started in 1869 and was completed in 1877 at a cost
of 25,000 pounds. The building is constructed of local limestone and bears a resemblance
to the Former Police Headquarters located at the
corner of St Vincent and Sackville Streets in Port of Spain.
One feature of the building is the prominent tower in the center of the building. This
tower had its most famous use in 1884 at 1.30am on Monday February 25th. From
this tower a lookout spotted Canboulay masqueraders on Cipero Street and the Police moved
out from their headquarters to stop the masqueraders. A battle ensued between the
masqueraders and the police at the corner of Lower Hillside Street and Coffee Street.
On June 2nd 1870 at the corner of Harris Promenade and
Penitence Street, in San Fernando, Governor Arthur Gordon laid the foundation stone for a
court house. Due to stops and starts the court house was not opened until 1874. The first
person to be tried was Matthew Frederick who was found guilty of assault and sentenced to
two years hard labour. This courthouse is next to the San Fernando Police Station and although a very
modern court facility has been constructed to the rear of the building , the front portion
of the building has been retained as the original building.
Library, which is at the eastern end of Harris
Promenade, has become a well know institution in San Fernando and the
corner upon which it stands has become known as Library Corner and is an
established meeting point for friends. In the early 1900's however this
location was a market and the residents of San Fernando had been clamoring
for the establishment of a library in San Fernando. In May 1909, the then
Mayor of San Fernando, Mr. J.D. Hobson, approached Mr. Andrew Carnegie,
Scottish-born American philanthropist, for aid in establishing a library. In
1911, Mr. Carnegie, who during that period was establishing libraries in
various parts of the world, gave the mayor 2,500 pounds to erect a library
building. One of the stipulations of the grant was that the library was to
be a free public library. This was an important stipulation because during
that period many libraries were subscription libraries in that persons had
to pay a monthly or annual fee to use a library, which denied many persons
in Trinidad of the opportunity to use a library because they could not
afford the fee.
Upon receipt of Carnegie's
donation, the San Fernando Borough Council agreed to move the market to
Prince Street so that the site could be used to construct the library and by
1912 the market was moved. In August 912, Mr. E.R. Gammon, the architect,
attached to the Public Works Department, was appointed to prepare the
building drawings. On completion of the drawings, Mr. Henry Sabbath Adams
was given the contract to construct the building for the sum of 2,300
pounds. This construction was completed in 1918 and in 1919 the library
opened its doors to the public.
The library building was
constructed in the Victorian style and retains its original exterior style
to the present. In 1925, electricity was provided to the building which
allowed the library to remain open until 9pm. The library continued to
operate at this site at the corner of Mucurapo Street and Harris Promenade
until 1977 when the building was declared unsafe. It took six years for the
Ministry of Works to renovate the building and finally in 1984, the building
was reopened to the public.
Presentation College at the corner of Coffee Street andCarib Street is a landmark in San Fernando, however the school was
not always there and was not always known as Presentation College. In 1930,
in response to the requests of the Catholic population - as well as many
non-Catholic residents, the Archbishop of Port-of-Spain directed the
Benedictine Fathers of Mount St. Benedict to start a college in San
Fernando. So on March 31, 1930, a small school called St. Benedict's was
established in the basement beneath the San Fernando Presbytery on Harris
Promenade with a teaching staff of two (Mr. Vincent Ferrer and Mr.
Mitchell), and twenty-three students.
In November 1930 the Benedictine Fathers purchased a six acre site in the
foothills of San Fernando Hill. This property had formerly been
called "Mon Nid" the home of the Marryat family and then
residence of the Governor whenever he visited San Fernando.
The buildings on the site were refitted with
a recreation hall, a library, and eight classrooms capable of holding some
190 students. The college was then moved from the Presbytery to the site at
the foot of San Fernando Hill where is continues today at the corner of
Carib Street and Coffee Street. Part of the site was a quarry and in 1933,
Rev. Fr. Placide Ganteaumme, OSB, the then Principal decided that the
College needed a playing field for the students and the quarry would be the
location for that playing field. He armed himself with a pick and a shovel,
and began the grueling task of manually converting the quarry into a
playground fit for the students. In time he was joined by the other
staff and students in this task of creating a playing field. That playing
field continues to exist today and it is hard to imagine that it was
previously a quarry until you look beyond the field and see the rocky
Although St Benedict's College was expanding, the Dominicans wanted to
return to pastoral work and expressed this desire to the Archbishop. As a
result in 1948, the Archbishop asked the Presentation Brothers to take over
the running of the college. With the entry of the new principal, Brother
Kelly, the name of the school was changed to Presentation College. In 1956
under Principal Bro. Bartholomew Browne a new wing, the New Block was
constructed - this is still the most imposing of all the buildings
constructed to date. It was officially opened on May 2, 1956, by His Grace,
the Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan, and the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago,
Sir Edward Betham. This building now a landmark in San Fernando, dominates
lower Coffee Street, and can be seen from a considerable distance.
On Carib Street in San Fernando, shortly after the
entrance to Presentation College, lies a
compound that is used as the transport yard for the San Fernando City
Corporation. The building has an art deco exterior and that exterior hints
at the historic significance of the building and the fact that it is a place
of interest, for this is the site of the original (and only) San Fernando
Power Station. In 1895, under Edgar Tripp the Electric Light and Power
Company installed the first set of electric lights in Trinidad in Port of
Spain. As the wonders of electricity began to be realised, the residents of
San Fernando began asking for electricity for their city but their requests
appeared to fall on deaf ears. Eventually the citizens of San Fernando
decided that in order for them to obtain electricity they had to act on
their own and so in 1921, The Mayor, Charles H Gopaul, mortgaged the town to
the Government to obtain funds to establish the San Fernando Municipal
Electric Lighting Works.
The Borough Council selected the site on Carib Street which was the location
of the water works and a steam generator was installed. By 1923, electric
lines had been set up through parts of the town and the Governor, Sir Hubert
Wilson, was invited to pull the switch to light the town with electricity.
With the growth in demand for the service, additional steam generators were
installed in 1927, 1931 and 1935 and this led to the need to expand the
building. So in 1939, the building was remodeled giving the exterior that is
With the formation of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Company (T&TEC) in
1945, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission took over the
operations of the Port of Spain electricity company. In 1953, T&TEC
constructed the Penal Power Station to supply electricity in south Trinidad
and so in 1954, the San Fernando Municipal Electric Lighting Works was
closed with the generators being sold to T&TEC. One
however can still see the words "Power Station" written at the top of the
Sitting on the corner of Carib Street and Upper Hillside Street in San Fernando is what
is believed to be the oldest surviving house in San Fernando. Built in 1832 by Samuel
Edwards a stone mason from Barbados, the house was the home of the Cadres family, among
whom was a member of the first Town Council of San Fernando in 1846. The house was built
in the Spanish style of architecture. Called the Carib House it is believed that the name
arises from the fact that it is located on Carib Street. The street name comes from San
Fernandos link to the Amerindians who would travel to worship at the place they
called Anaparima. In present times, Anaparima is called San Fernando Hill or Naparima Hill.
The Guarahoon Indians (Warahoon, Juarro) were often called Caribs,
hence the name of the street.
Sadly, renovations have taken away the character of the old house in a very mistaken
attempt at modernising the structure. Rather than restoring items that were damaged or
unservicable they have been replaced with steel. Thus we have lost the delicate,
hand-carved windows and the elegantly carved and patterned staircase at the back of the
building. The columns at base are really the only aspect of the house that retains its
original Spanish character.
Kings_Wharf San Fernando
Most people think of the heart of San Fernando as
being Harris Promenade or High Street, however the real
heart of San Fernando can be considered as the Kings Wharf area. It is Kings Wharf that
gave San Fernando its real reason for being and caused the town to develop. When Governor
Chacon established the town and called it San Fernando de Naparima in honour of the infant
Prince Ferdinand of Asturias, who later became King Ferdinand VII of Spain, the centre of
the town was Plaza de San Carlos. This plaza was in the wharf area and from it ran four
streets-St. Vincent, Chacon, Penitence and Quenca.
In the 1700's and early 1800's the majority of transportation was by sea because Trinidad
was still a heavily forested island with few roads. To travel to other parts of the
island, sailboats were used and all travel and trade with other parts of the world was by
sail. To increase San Fernando's contact with the rest, Governor Woodford granted a loan
of $40,000 for the construction of a jetty at Kings Wharf in 1817. Making use of this port
were several steamships which were used to transport goods and passengers from Port of
Spain and San Fernando with the first Steamship being the SS Woodford which made its first
voyage on 18th December 1818. By 1846 this wharf had reached 300 feet and by 1886 the
jetty was at 100 feet.
In the late 1700's and early 1800's sugar was the heart of Trinidad's economy and the
Naparima plains were the most fertile sugar cane lands. Sugar was transported from the
estates by boats using the Cipero and Guaracara Rivers. On the Cipero River an Embarcadere
was built near the mouth of the Cipero River with storage shed and wharfs, even today the
area is called Embarcadere. Although the majority of sugar was transported on these
rivers, sugar was also shipped from King's Wharf because there were sugar estates on the
then outskirts of San Fernando such as Mon Chagrin, Les Efforts and Mon Repos. In
addition, goods were brought into San Fernando via the King's Wharf port for the merchants
who were establishing themselves in the town.
The King's Wharf area received another boost as San Fernando's transport hub in 1859 when
the Cipero Tramway was established by William Eccles as Trinidad's first railway. It was
used primarily to transport produce from the remote estates of the Naparimas out to Kings
Wharf to waiting ships. The Tramway began from what is now Tramway Avenue in Princes Town,
ran roughly along the banks of the Cipero River, then crossing at Cross Crossing, it
continued to the San Fernando wharf along the path known now as the Kirton-Rienzi Highway,
formerly Lady Hailes Avenue. After a short while this tramway began transporting
passengers in addition to sugar and other produce. With the establishment of the Trinidad
Government Railway there was great demand for rail travel and in April 1882, the railway
which had begun in Port of Spain was extended to San Fernando with
the terminus being on the Kings Wharf. In 1884 the rail service was extended from San
Fernando to Princes Town.
In 1913 when oil began to flow, the San Fernando line was
extended from Kings Wharf through the oil regions to Siparia. Although rail travel was
extensively used by the public, Government also operated a sailing service. In 1923, the
government operated a round-the-island sailing service operating what was called the
Icacos Service and the Bocas Service. The Icacos Service stopped at San Fernando, La Brea, Guapo, Cap-de-Ville, Irois Forest, Granville and Cedros,
with the San Fernando stop being at Kings Wharf.
All of these transport activities made Kings Wharf the heart of San Fernando as it
funneled people and commerce from all surrounding areas into San Fernando.
Today the Kings Wharf area continues to function as a transport hub with the waiting area
for the Public Transport Service buses being located here. This is also the location for
obtaining maxi-taxis to many areas in South Trinidad. The launch of the Water Taxi service
transporting passengers between San Fernando and Port of Spain is reminiscent of the
former Government round-the-island sailing service and the San Fernando hub is at Kings
On a visit to Kings Wharf you can still see many of the
buildings constructed in the early 1900's and it is pleasing to note that there are
efforts to refurbish these buildings.
Palmiste Park is a large park of 40 acres on the outskirts of San Fernando just after
Duncan Village, lying along the San Fernando Siparia Erin Road. The park has undulating
land with wide open spaces that are perfect for picnics and little children playing. There
are large spreading Samaan trees throughout and benches scattered around the property.
There is a paved lighted jogging track and an area set aside for cricket.
Palmiste Park is the last remaining open space from the former Palmiste Estate. This
estate was formed in 1808 when Governor Thomas Hislop granted 360 acres to Major General
Sir Charles Shipley who had been part of the invasion of Trinidad by the British in 1797.
The estate was acquired by James Lamont in 1869 and eventually grew to 2,328 acres. The
name Palmiste was given to the estate because of the Palmiste palms that were plentiful in
the area. The area that is today Palmiste National Park was once called Palmiste Pasture
and was the area used for grazing the cattle used as beasts of burden on the estate. By
the 1930s the area was used for livestock breeding.
It seems as if Trinidad in the 21st century has little connection to its slave owning
past. There are no memorials to these slaves and there are very few physical relics of
slavery in Trinidad. The estates on which these slaves toiled are rapidly being forgotten.
The names of some of these estates survive to this day but the fact that they were estates
is little remembered. Some have become high end residential areas such as Bel Air, Palmiste and Phillipine on the outskirts of San Fernando, others
have become entire communities such as River Estate,
Champs Fluers, La Romain and Mon Repos, yet others have have remained agricultural but
developed into villages such as Aranjuez, Golconda and Woodland, while some exist only as
a road name such as Dumfries and Mathilda Junction.
One tangible but little known link lies in the man Louis Bicaise. Louis Bicaise was a
French creole mulatto (in Trinidad parlance, "a red man") who migrated from St
Vincent to Trinidad around 1811. In time, through marriage and purchases he became one of
the largest landowners in South Trinidad owning La Resource Estate and Trafalgar Estate.
According to Professor Brinsley Samaroo, Louis Bicaise developed as a slave dealer,
traveling the islands to purchase slaves that he brought to Trinidad. We also know from
Anthony de Verteuil's book, "The Black Earth of South Naparima", that his son
John Nelson Bicaise became the largest slave dealer in Africa operating on the coast of
what is today Guinea.
At the time of Emancipation in 1834 Louis Bicaise had 55 slaves on his estates. When he
died in 1838 at the age of 62, his grave was placed on the top of one of the hills of his
estate, near the present Rambert Village. The hill on which the grave is located has a
magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. The marble slab that was placed on top
the grave with the inscription has survived to this day. In 1868 when his wife Marie died,
she was buried next to him. The grave is located on a branch road off Dumfries Road, just
a short distance off the road. Unfortunately bamboo has begun to root in the grave
breaking up the concrete and marble and partly obscuring the site of the grave.
Apart from being a link to Trinidad's slave owning past, the burial of this couple and
the fact that their graves have survived for almost 200 years has given rise to an
interesting myth. It is said (in an article by Al Ramsawack in the Trinidad Guardian of
21/3/09) that on the night of the full moon, Mrs Bicaise rises from her grave and she and
her husband talk to each other in French Patois. Whether that conversation is about
business or terms of endearment we do not know.
Another historical grave that exists in Rambert Village is the burial site of John
Augustus, which is at the side of Pond Street just after its intersection with Dumfries
Road. John Augustus lived from 1882 to 1969 and during the period 1904 to 1914, he was the
manager of the estate at River Estate in Diego Martin plus the of the Royal Botanical
Gardens in Port of Spain. From 1915 to 1956, he was the manager of the Palmiste Estates.
The Moruga Road passes through a series of villages known as Third, Fifth and Sixth
Company. These names are the result of the settlement in Trinidad in 1815 and 1816 of six
companies of negro soldiers who had fought alongside the British in the American war of
1812. These men had been slaves on American plantations and the British had offered them
freedom if they would defect and fight for the British. At the end of the war the British
brought them to Trinidad. In 1815, 50 men were brought to Trinidad, then in 1816, 34 men,
15 women and 7 children were brought.
The soldiers were each given 16 acres of virgin land for married men and 8 acres for
single men. They were settled together in the companies under which they had fought in the
war, hence the names of the villages and their being called The Company Villages. This
area was chosen because it was remote country and far from the plantations. The planters
did not want these men with a military past to be near their slaves for fear that they
might lead the slaves in revolt.
The other soldiers from the companies were settled in other parts of Trinidad: the
First Company was settled in Hindustan; part of the Third Company was settled in North Manzanilla. The Fourth Company was settled
near to Hindustan in an area that came to be called HardBargain. The soldiers protested
about the poor soil conditions in the area and said that they had been given a "hard
bargain". After the protestations about the land condition part of the company was
moved to an area that was called New Grant because these soldiers had been given a new
grant of land.
According to Besson and Brereton in the Book of Trinidad, part of the Second Company
was shipwrecked off the coast of Tobago and swam ashore and settled in Tobago.
There are however another group of Company Villages that are not as well known as those
in the Moruga and Hindustan areas.
In October 1818 it was decided to disband part of the Third British West India Regiment
which was comprised of Negro soldiers. According to Professor Brereton these were "
free Africans who had served in the West India Regiments created by the British to defend
the colonies during the long period when Britain and France were at war (1793-1815)".
The British had intended to send these men back to Africa however the soldiers made it
clear that they did not want to be repatriated to Africa. Thus in 1819 these soldiers were
settled along the Cuare River in the companies they had fought in. The area in which they
were settled became known as the Cuare Village and is today called Valencia.
The remainder of the Third British West India Regiment was disbanded in 1825 and 376
men, 35 women and 34 children were settled in Trinidad. These soldiers were again settled
in companies and they were placed in four groups in a line from the Cuare River pointing
in the direction of Manzanilla. The Cuare River (shown as Quare on some maps) in the area
these soldiers were settled runs parallel to what is now known as the "Valencia
Stretch" of the Eastern Main Road. One of the other areas where these groups were
settled was known as Turure and another is the area now called Cumuto.
Part of the reason for settling these men in this area was again to keep them away from
the slaves on the plantations. The other reason for this area was that they were expected
to create and maintain a road that would run from Arima
through Cuare (Valencia) to Manzanilla.
All of these soldiers were expected to remain in the villages in which they were
settled. One group however ran away from Manzanilla and went to live in Fifth Company.
This group was comprised of Mandingos and the area they settled in was and is still called
Trinidadians in their 40's, 50's and 60's would be familiar with the phrase
"a real mandingo". It was used to describe someone of African descent who
was tall, broad shouldered and well proportioned. Now in the 21st century we
may ask, who were these people?, did they really exist?, were they a
separate group of Africans?
The term Mandingo would be properly used to describe Mande speaking Africans
from the regions of Senegal and Gambia in West Africa. This group were
Muslims who were captured and sold into slavery. Over time Mandingo became
a generic term used to describe African Muslims of non-ethnic Mande stock
including Fulani, Hausa and Yoruba. As these were tall, broad shouldered,
well proportioned individuals, the term by the early 20th century was used
to describe all African descendants with those dimensions.
The African Muslims formed an interesting segment of Trinidad society. This
group, although enslaved and brought into a Christian society retained their
faith and formed a cohesive community that worked and saved their money in
order to purchase their freedom and then purchase the freedom of others of
their faith. One of the individuals who was considered a leader of this
group is Jonas Mohammed Bath who arrived in Trinidad in 1807 and was bought
by the Government to work on the construction of Fort
George. After some time he was placed in charge of all construction
activity by Governor Hislop. Bath was a member of the Free Mandingo Society
which up to 1834 would board any slave ship that came to Trinidad and seek
to purchase any Mandingos on board and set them free. These freed Mandingos
then had to work for the Association to repay the purchase price and provide
funds so that others could be freed. This group petitioned the British
Government in 1832 and 1838 to repatriate them back to Africa. It is known
that one family of Mohammadu Sise was eventually sent to Gambia in 1838 but
it is not known if others were also repatriated.
The geographic heart of this Mandingo community was in the Port of Spain
suburb of Belmont. There were however other areas with some Mandingo
concentration. One of these areas, according to Professor Brinsley Samaroo,
was the African American settlement on the Hondo River in Valencia, just
before the river joins the Cuare River. The majority of persons in this
settlement were Muslims and a few were Baptists and their leader was Abu
Bakr (named after the first successor to the Prophet Mohammed). This
settlement existed from 1819 to 1840 and was started by members of the 3rd
West India Regiment. It is believed that this group introduced rice
cultivation to Trinidad. The settlement diminished in the 1840's because
there was no bridge over the river. Another group of these African Muslims
was located in the area now known as
North Manzanilla and were from the West India Regiment.
growth of the Belmont group led over time to their extending to other parts
of Trinidad and by 1870 had founded the settlement that is today called
Mandingo Road which begins on the outskirts of Princes Town and runs through
Third and Fifth Company in Moruga.
There has been a debate as to whether it is appropriate to say that
Christopher Columbus discovered Trinidad with the argument being that how
could one "discover" a place where people were already living, namely the
Amerindians. Certainly however Columbus identified for Europeans the
existence of Trinidad and the other Caribbean islands. Moruga is one village
in Trinidad that has always marked that occasion with an annual reenactment
of Columbus' arrival in Trinidad. Previously that reenactment took place on
what was a public holiday known as Discovery Day on 1st August and although
the holiday no longer exists, having been replaced by the Emancipation Day
Holiday, the reenactment is still done in the village of Gran Chemin. The
villagers have now gone a step further by erecting a seven and a half foot
tall Christopher Columbus statue at the end of
Gran Chemin beach.
According to historical records, the crew of Columbus ship came ashore in
Moruga on July 31, 1498 to collect water and just around the headland at the
end of Gran Chemin beach is another beach known as Punta del Playa where the
River of Hope empties into the sea. The statue is at the side of the
road with the beach as its background and is easily reached by turning left
at the Gran Chemin junction onto the street that has the Health Centre.
Another statue that has been erected in Moruga is the 10 foot St Peter
statue that sits atop a 20 foot column. This statue is directly at the end
of the road on the Gran Chemin beach, just after the
St Vincent Ferrer
Catholic Church. The choice of St Peter is appropriate as St Peter is
the patron saint of fishermen and Gran Chemin is a fishing village.
A third statue that has been erected in the area is a six foot tall Virgin
Mary Statue on a rock at Canari Point. This statue has been installed on a
10-foot high rock 15 feet off the shore at an area where there was once a
settlement called Canari Village.
All three statues are the work of Eric Lewis who is a School teacher in the
Located in the village of Tabaquite is the only man-made tunnel found in Trinidad. This
tunnel was constructed in 1898 to facilitate the train line that had been extended from
Cunupia to Tabaquite. During this period, "Cocoa was King" and the Tabaquite
region including the Caparo valley, Brasso and Longdenville were heavy producers. As a
result the railway system was extended to allow cocoa estates to be able to move their
produce from this region. During construction it was found that a ridge of high ground was
barring the way. Consequently the tunnel was constructed through the ridge. The tunnel was
named Knollys Tunnel after Acting Governor Courtney Knollys and the new train line was
opened on 20th August 1898. This train line operated until 30th
August 1965. During its time this tunnel was an attraction and many people rode the train
to Tabaquite simply to experience going through the tunnel.
In 1991, recognizing the historic importance of this tunnel, the Government under
Minister Lincoln Myers cleared the tunnel and beautified the area. As a result, today,
Knollys Tunnel is still an attraction. Around the tunnel entrance the grounds have been
landscaped and there are two ajoupas for relaxing in. To get to the tunnel, you take
either the Guaracara Tabaquite Road or the Tabaquite Rio Claro Road to Tabaquite and then
turn onto John William Trace. As you turn onto John William Trace, you turn left on the
first road and follow this road direct to the tunnel entrance. The train tracks have been
filled in and the road is a gravel road.
Undoubtedly the delivery of mail and the development of a postal system plays a major
role in the development of an area and so it was in the development of the Mayaro region.
At the present Mayaro is best known for its beach and is
a popular vacation area. In the 1700's however Mayaro was an isolated region, cut off from
the rest of Trinidad by thick forests and the lack of a bridge across the Ortoire River. In 1818, a steamer
service that sailed around the island was started and a postal service was inaugurated in
1851, with Mayaro being one of the first 20 postal destinations. At that time the Post
Office was located at Radix village which was the main settlement and the point at which
the steamer stopped, with the mail being brought by the steamer.
During the 1860's the Governor, Lord Harris, cut a trace from Princes Town to Mayaro
beach. Concerned that criminals would use the Mayaro Trace to flee to Mayaro to escape
justice, a police post was established at the end of the trace in Plaisance Village. In
1889 the police post was made into a Police Station. The post office however remained at
Radix Village. Some time between 1914 and 1917, there was a robbery at the post office and
it was decided to move the post office to Plaisance Village (Pierreville) and place it
next to the Police Station.
The building which was then constructed for the post office was however given to the
District Medical Officer, Dr. Armand Pampellone, so that he could be close to the
emergency hospital that had been built at Plaisance. In 1921 the post office was finally
constructed by Phillip Xavier. It is believed that in order to please the postmistress,
Miss Best, the building was made as an exact replica of the District Medical Officer's
residence. It was designed with a wide verandah along the entire front. Just as the post
office was constructed, Miss Best was transferred and a new postmistress, Alice Cuffy was
appointed. In those days the postmistress would live at the post office. In 1931, Alice
Cuffy was transferred and her sister, Olga Cuffy was appointed as the postmistress. In
1948, Olga Cuffy retired and the post office was converted into a nurses hostel to enable
them to be near the hospital. The Mayaro Post Office has been placed on the National Trust
Register of historic buildings and is presently undergoing repairs to restore it.
Located on St Joseph estate in Mayaro is a statue
of St Joseph that is believed to have been erected in the 1860's. The statue is on the
edge of the beach facing the original estate great house that is still standing,(visit the
for pictures of the Great House). The St Joseph estate was created by the three Ganteaumes
de Monteau brothers who arrived in Trinidad in 1793, after fleeing from Martinique. The
estate was originally called Beausejour, which meant "Good Home" but in 1853 due
to bankruptcy, parts of the estate were sold and the remaining 618 acres was renamed St
The St Joseph statue was erected by Francois Alphonse Ganteaume, the
grandson of the original founders. According to Fr. Anthony de Verteuil in his book Great
Estates of Trinidad, there was a large storm one year and the statue was washed out to
sea. Several years later there was another storm and the statue reappeared on the beach.
As the statue is on private property, the permission of the owners should be obtained in
order to enter the estate. However because the statue is so close to the sea, it can be
seen from the beach. The St Joseph estate is next to Point Radix on the northern end of Mayaro Beach.
Another of the sites on St Joseph estate is a beautiful small cottage that faces the sea (visit the Photo Gallery for
the picture). It is believed that this cottage was erected for Lord Harris who vacationed
in Mayaro at the estate. Lord Harris was the British Governor who oversaw the introduction
of Indian indentured labour to Trinidad in 1847. Several locations around Trinidad have
been named after him, such as Lord Harris Square in Port
of Spain and Harris Promenade in San Fernando.
Brigand Hill, the name evokes images of thieves, robbers, bandits
etc and that is certainly what Trinidad's slave owning European colonists called them. But
were the people who lived there really brigands? No, they were individuals who were no
longer prepared to live under the yoke of slavery. These were runaway slaves, Trinidad's
own Maroons. Prior to 1834, Brigand Hill was an area that slaves could escape to because
of the remoteness of the location and the heavy forest cover that existed both in the area
and between it and the other colonized locations such as Arima,
St Joseph and Port of Spain.
Brigand Hill is part of Trinidad's Central Range which runs diagonally across the island
with the tallest hills being Mount Tamana, Mount Harris and Brigand Hill. Nowadays,
Brigand Hill's attraction is the lighthouse that sits atop the hill and the stupendous
view. Built in 1958, the Brigand Hill Lighthouse, is one of three operating lighthouses in
Trinidad. The lighthouse shares the site with a large TV/radio transmission facility and
telecommunications towers. Although it is not possible to enter the lighthouse
itself, one can climb the 20 odd iron stairs that run up on the outside for a magnificent
view stretching all the way from Toco in the north to Galeota Point in the south, taking
in the Caroni Plains and the flatlands of the Nariva
Swamp. From the steps of the lighthouse one gets to truly see the expanse of the
To reach the lighthouse you take the Plum Mitan Road off the
Eastern Main Road at Upper Manzanilla and turn left (east) at the signpost to the
lighthouse. It is a steep 30 minute climb for those who want to walk from this point or a
steady 5 minute uphill drive. The drive along Plum Mitan Road is very cool as there are
cocoa estates on either side of the majority of the road interspersed with small houses,
some still standing from bygone eras.
A hidden gem that lies along the oilfield road connecting
Palo Seco with Fyzabad is the Fyzabad Heritage Park. This very peaceful area is kissed by
constant soft breezes. In the center of the park is a sizeable pond with a foot path
threading through the area, at times skirting the edge of the pond and at other times
veering away. The water attracts various species of birds including white-headed marsh
tyrants, sandpipers, egrets, blue and white swallows, plovers, yellow-rumped caciques,
crested oropendolas, doves .
Throughout the park there are strategically placed benches giving views of the water or
the surrounding forest. There are open areas for picnics and several carat sheds with
seating. Scattered around the park are functional oil jacks. A large play area for
children with swings is located at the front of the property. A short distance from the
park is Charlie King Junction.
Fyzabad in south Trinidad was founded in 1871 as a project of the Canadian Mission to
the Indians. Under an arrangement with the Presbyterian Church the government gave 10 acre
plots to former indentured labourers who had
converted to the Presbyterian faith. It is believed that the village was named after the
district of Faizabad in the Utter Pradesh state in India.
The discovery of oil in Fyzabad in 1917 led to the influx of
workers to the area, particularly immigrants from Grenada. These workers labored under
very difficult conditions and for very low pay. One of these workers was a man called
Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler who had come from Grenada in 1921. In 1936, Butler
founded his union and began agitating for improvements in the working conditions. On June
2nd 1937 the Government charged Butler with sedition and incitement to riot. When he
failed to appear in court, the Police attempted to arrest him at 3.00pm on June 19th 1937
while he was addressing a rally at Fyzabad Junction. The arrest attempt led to a riot by
the workers and in the riot English police officer Sub-Inspector William
Bradburn was shot to death and Trinidadian Police Corporal Charlie King was burnt alive.
Strikes and riots developed throughout the country. In next the eight months, 9 trade
unions were formed, including the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and the All Trinidad
Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union (ATSE & FTU).
Eventually as a result of Butlers efforts working conditions were
improved and June 19th declared, a public holiday, Labour Day. At the
intersection where the incident occurred, there is a bust of Tubal Uriah Butler to
commemorate his efforts.
Whenever the name Fyzabad is mentioned and particularly in relation to the
Labour Riots of 1937, one name is invariably mentioned and that is Tubal
Uriah Buzz Butler. Definitely Mr. Butler deserves an honored place in the
history of Trinidad and Tobago and indeed within the Caribbean for it is as
a result of his leadership that working conditions were improved for the
vast majority of persons. What is now not often remembered is that several
persons were killed during these riots and when the deaths during the riots
are remembered, one generally only hears about English police officer
Sub-Inspector William Bradburn who was shot to death and Trinidadian Police
Corporal Charlie King who was burnt alive. There were however several other
persons who were killed during these riots and one of these was a man called
La Brea Charles.
On the morning of June 19th 1937, the workers at Apex Oilfields in Fyzabad
took strike action and Buzz Butler came to address them. The Government had
decided that Butler was dangerous and charged him with sedition and inciting
to riot. While Butler was addressing the striking workers Sub-Inspector
William Bradburn instructed a Corporal to arrest Butler, saying “Mr Butler,
I know that you will come quietly,”. Butler demanded that the warrant be
read to him, as was his right, and as this was being done, he cried out to
the striking workers: “Must they arrest me?” The workers shouted: “No!”. It
is said that Butler cried out three times and three times the crowd
shouted "No" and moved to form a human shield around Butler. In the midst of
all this Police Corporal Charlie King, who it has been said was neither
stationed in Fyzabad, nor on duty at the time, held on to Butler to arrest
him. In the ensuing melee William Bradburn was shot and according to some
reports, Corporal Charlie King fell to the ground, was drenched in oil and
burnt to death, while other reports state that he fled to a nearby building
which was then set on fire and King burned alive. Butler in the midst of
this went into hiding.
That night, some members of the Police went looking for Butler and
undoubtedly they were angered by the murder of Corporal Charlie King. In
their search they encountered a man called La Brea Charles who bore a strong
resemblance to Uriah Butler and mistakenly identified him as Butler and shot
him to death. Now on the southern side of the road, not far from the statue
of Butler at what is now called Charlie
King Junction, there is a small concrete memorial to enable us to
remember the death of La Brea Charles.
Helena Oil Well lies just inside the southern entrance gate to Petrotrin's
Forest Reserve compound and in a sense it is a historic oil well for two
reasons. In the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the
20th century, Trinidad was now becoming an oil
producing country. Oil had been found in 1857 and then in 1867 a
successful well had been drilled in Aripero, followed by another well in
Guayaguayare in 1902 and then in 1907 the first commercially viable well was
drilled at La Fortunee in Point Fortin. This
led to a rush of companies being formed to drill for oil. According to
Gerard Besson in "Black Gold, the Real El Dorado", between 1909 and 1912, 60
companies were registered. One of these companies was called Trinidad
Leaseholds and they selected an area on the outskirts of Fyzabad for their
exploration. At the time this area was covered in immense forests and in
April 1914 with its first well drilled in the area, the company struck oil
which came gushing out of the ground. Trinidad Leaseholds called the well
Helena-1 after the sister of the General Manager, Mr. Korkhaus. The success
of this well meant that the area had an oil reserve and because of the
forests, the oil field was named Forest Reserve. Trinidad Leaseholds was
ultimately bought over by Texaco Trinidad which in turn was bought by
Trintoc which ultimately became Petrotrin. The second reason that the Helena
Oil Well is historic is that this well holds the record for the longest
producing well on land in Trinidad. In 1917 the well was deepened and it
continued to produce oil until 1990.
Located just off the Siparia Erin Road, between Penal and Siparia on Water Well Road is
what we call the Penal Island Park. This park was formerly called the Jovi Island Park and
the sign on the Siparia Erin Road still has that name. We are advised that the park is now
owned by the Hindu Credit Union.
The park is centred around a large lake that has a small island in the middle. The area
around the park teems with bird life, especially egrets which use the bamboo stands as
nesting sites. If you are looking for a place for a relaxing picnic in south Trinidad,
this park is a good location as there is ample open land around the lake. Those who seek a
location for an open area event such as a family reunion or departmental get-together will
also find this location suitable as there is a covered area with sinks, cutting surfaces
and cooking area.
A wooden walkway surrounds approximately three quarter of the lake allowing you to take
a casual stroll along the waters edge. Freshwater recreational fishermen will also
appreciate the walkway as it allows them to try their hand at catching local species such
as guabine, coscorob and cascadura. If you like being on the water, this lake is good for
a gentle paddle. There are a few cycle kayaks on the compound but these are not in good
condition so it would be best if you brought your own kayak, canoe or inflatable boat.
There is presently no cover charge for using the facility. Swimming in the lake is not
traveling from La Brea to Point Fortin and areas
further south cannot help but observe the area of rubber trees just after
Vessigny in Union Village. This stretch of roadway has always provided a
cool almost tunnel like appearance as the tops of the trees curve over the
road shading the asphalt. Although Government's proposed industrialization
in this area has destroyed the majority of the rubber trees, sufficient
trees exist along the roadway to show that a rubber plantation existed here.
Vessiny, after whom the village of Vessigny was named, migrated to Trinidad
from Corsica in 1788 at the age of 13. Eventually after working for his
uncle for several years he was able to purchase an estate on the outskirts
of La Brea and the area
eventually came to be named after him. The estate was planted in sugar but
in later years rubber trees were planted there.
experimentation with rubber began in the 1800's when the price of sugar in
the world market fell and cocoa, coconut and rubber became alternative crops
cultivated for export. Rubber trees were grown in the
Botanical Gardens from seeds brought from
Brazil and experimental tapping of these trees to obtain the latex for the
rubber had started in 1898. Although Trinidad had a preference for Balata
which is a native plant and which also yields latex that produces rubber it
is a non-elastic rubber and so did not have the range of uses as natural
rubber. To cope with the demand for labour to care for the rubber trees, a
few hundred Indians were indentured on rubberestates in Trinidad. By
1910, about 3,000 acres of land were under cultivation with Castilloa rubber
mainly in Rio Claro. Later, the planters switched to cultivating the Para
[Hevea Brasiliensis] variety as it had a better flow of latex and rubber
estates were in operation in Talparo, Ecclesville, Phoenix, Guayabe,
Vessigny, Biche, Matura and Sangre Grande. In 1927 production of rubber in
Trinidad reached 74,000 kilograms. Unfortunately Parasitic leaf blight
affected these early efforts as the blight caused the leaves to fall from
The advent of
World War Two however caused Trinidad to renew its efforts at rubber
production. The sinking of cargo vessels by German U Boats and the diversion
of ships to other aspects of the war effort meant that supplies from Asia
could not be imported resulting in a shortfall of rubber and tyres had to be
rationed as a wartime measure. This rubber shortage then led to renewed
interest in planting rubber trees in Trinidad. The Government imported
Rubber trees from Ceylon and these were planted at Non Pareil Estate in
Sangre Grande and at Vessigny. Eventually Rubber was harvested and exported
from the rubber forest at Union Village. Unfortunately rubber production
eventually ceased but the rubber forest plantation remained.
The La Fortunee oil well in Point Fortin can be
considered the first commercially viable oil well drilled in Trinidad. There
were other oil wells that were drilled in Trinidad at earlier periods with
the earliest being recorded in 1857 and while some of the earlier oil wells
such as in the Aripero area in 1867 and in Guayaguayare in 1902 struck oil,
this well can be considered the first where there was a viable means of
moving the oil from the well head. The La Fortunee oil well changed the
history of Point Fortin and indeed the entire
history of Trinidad and Tobago by starting the development of anoil industry.
As a result of the earlier oil finds, the Government
in 1904 brought a geologist, Mr. Cunningham-Craig to Trinidad to map the
geology of Trinidad. As a result of Cunningham-Craig's work, Arthur
Beeby-Thompson began looking at the Point Fortin area. At the time, although
there were estates in the area, much of the land was forest and Thompson
literally had to hack his way through the bush to explore the area. Although
Thompson had decided on this area because of the signs of oil and because it
was near the sea with good anchorage the area was also unhealthy. Staff and
employees suffered severely from malaria and in April 1907 there was a
serious outbreak of Yellow Fever. Nevertheless drilling commenced and in May
1907, oil was struck at the shallow depth of 700 feet.
The well is known as the La Fortunee well because it
was located on the former La Fortunee estate. Although over 100 years
have passed since this well was drilled you can still visit the site of this
the first commercially viable oil well in Trinidad and Tobago.
To find the well you proceed along the Southern Main
Road to Point Fortin and just after passing Egypt Village you turn left onto
Reid Road. Shortly after you pass the Point Fortin West Secondary School you
turn right onto a road which has the Point Fortin London (Evangelical)
Baptist Church. You proceed to the end of this short road and the oil well
is on your left. Although the area around the well is overgrown with bushes,
the immediate area around the well is fenced and there is a sign indicating
that this was the first commercially successful well in Trinidad.
The economic prosperity of Trinidad and Tobago has for a long time been based on the
petrochemical sector and petroleum or oil has had a colorful history in Trinidad. The
history of oil exploration in Trinidad begins in 1857 with the drilling by the Merimac
company of an oil well in La Brea. That first producing well went to a depth of 280 feet.
It is interesting to note that the first producing well in Trinidad was drilled two years
before Drake's well in Pennsylvania in the United States of America. The Merimac company
however went into liquidation and production of oil lapsed. That however was not the end
of oil exploration. Indeed it is reported that in 1858 - 1859 when cutting the Cipero Tramway between San Fernando and Princes Town, oil was
found. This discovery led Walter Darwent to form the Paria Oil Company and drill two wells
in San Fernando. Unfortunately both wells were dry holes. Darwent then switched to
drilling in the Aripero area and in 1867 at a depth of 160 feet completed a successful
well, approximately 4 miles east of the Pitch
Lake. Darwent unfortunately contracted malaria and died in 1868. He is buried in La
Brea. Exploration activity temporarily died with Darwent.
In 1870, a hunter took a sample of a black substance to a Chinese shop keeper, Mr. Lee
Lum, in Guyaguyare. The hunter recounted that
there were areas in the Guayaguayare forest where gas escaped from the ground and they
would light the gas to cook their meals. Lee Lum sent the substance to London for analysis
and it was confirmed as high quality petroleum. Thus in 1901, Randolph Rust in partnership
with Lee Lum and with Canadian financial backing began prospecting for oil in
Guayaguayare. In 1902 at a depth of 1,015 feet oil was found and the well produced at a
rate of 100 barrels per day. Eight additional producing wells were drilled but by 1907 the
company folded, being unable to transport the oil out of the Guayaguayare forests.
In 1907, Arthur Beeby-Thompson struck oil in Point Fortin.
Thompson's company, Trinidad Oilfields Limited then drilled several more wells in the
Point Fortin area, with one in 1912 in the Parry Lands area flowing at a rate of 10,000
barrels per day from 1,400 feet. Other companies were then formed and began drilling in
the areas around Point Fortin. In 1909, the Trinidad Lake Petroleum Company drilled a
successful well in La Brea and in 1912 successfully drilled in Vessigny. In 1912,
Stollmeyer struck oil at 250 feet in Guapo. These developments in the Point Fortin area led to the successful development of the
petroleum industry in Trinidad. In 1913, Trinidad Leaseholds Limited was formed and
drilled the first producing well in Forest Reserve in 1914. Trinidad Central Oilfields
began successfully prospecting for oil in Tabaquite.
Today, although the majority of the petroleum and gas is found offshore, there is still
oil production on land in Trinidad. As you drive through areas of south Trinidad, you can
still see many of the old oil fields releasing the black gold that has driven the Trinidad
economy for over 100 years. In areas such as Penal, Moruga, Palo Seco, Forest Reserve, Tabaquite, Point Fortin, Erin, Fyzabad, Siparia, pumping jacks still work up and down
and pipelines snake across the countryside. (For photographs of pumping jacks see the Picture Gallery)
Point Fortin can be considered the town that oil
created. The area that is today called Point Fortin was originally named
Punta del Guapo after the river that was called Rio Guapo. Although the
river does not look so today, this was a beautiful area in Spanish times as
Guapo means beautiful or handsome. We know that in the late 1700's and early
1800's there were several sugar estates in the Point Fortin area, however
the establishment and ownership of these estates seems to be clouded in some
According to Michael Anthony, under the Cedula de
Populacion in 1783, land was granted to a Messier. Fortin for the
establishment of a sugar cane estate which he called La Fortunee and it is
from Messier Fortin the town derives its name. According to the historian
Gerald Besson, in his book "The Cult of the Will" in 1788 Honore Tardieu
received a grant of land in the Point Fortin area from Governor Chacon of 80
quarrees. In 1796, in order to purchase an estate on Monos island, Honore
Tardieu apparently sold the land to Francois Besson who had come to Trinidad
under the Cedula de Populacion. Besson bought the land and began to clear
the forest to plant sugar cane and create La Fortunee estate of 256 acres.
According to Anthony de Verteuil however, in his book "The Corsicans in
Trinidad", in 1810 Simon Paul Vessiny obtained a grant of land from the
government of 256 acres and began clearing the forest to create a sugar
estate. In 1811 he received another grant of 224 next to his original grant
and named the combined property La Fortunee. Father de Verteuil further
states that in 1812 Simon Paul Vessiny bought 480 acres from Monsieur Fortin
and in 1813 bought another 240 acres from Monsieur Fortin to add to La
Some of the other estates in the area were Clifton
Hill Estate which in 1826 was bought by John Lamont and then sold to Messrs
Eccles and Company. Adventure Estate was another estate that by 1906 was
owned by the Waith family. The abolition of slavery led to a decline in the
sugar estates. In the early 1900's however the estates prospered again with
cocoa production. The names of these former estates survive today as names
for areas or roads in Point Fortin, so we have Adventure Road from Adventure
Estate, Clifton Hill from Clifton Hill Estate, and La Fortunee Dam. Point
Fortin in the early 1900's was still a remote area and it is recorded that
even in 1931, the population was less than 500 persons.
It was the coming of Arthur Beeby-Thompson and his
discovery of oil in 1907 that led to the development of the area. The
first oil well was sunk on La Fortunee
Estate. At this time Point Fortin was surrounded by thick forests and
workers suffered from malaria and yellow fever. The drilling however
continued and continuing discovery of producing wells led to the growth of
Point Fortin and indeed the
development of the oil industry for all of Trinidad. In 1910 a small
unit was established in Point Fortin to refine crude oil. In 1916, UBOT
established a larger refinery in Point Fortin. With the growth of oil
exploration in Point Fortin there were insufficient workers as Trinidadians
were not attracted to Point Fortin because of the lack of amenities in the
area. In order to obtain workers, in the 1920's the company brought workers
from Grenada, many of whom remained in Point Fortin and their descendants
still live in the area. In order however to attract more workers the company
began to develop the areas around Point Fortin and so built houses in
Techier, Mahaica and Clifton Hill. In addition other areas developed such as
Point Ligoure, Egypt Village and New Village. The growth of the area then
led to the establishment of a Post Office, Police Station and other
Not only did Point Fortin lead in the development of
oil drilling in Trinidad but it led the world in the development of new
petroleum technology. The first well drilled completely using rotary
drilling was Parry Lands No. D4 in 1914 that went to a depth of 580 feet. In
1954, UBOT created Trinmar (an acronym for Trinidad Marine Areas) and began
drilling off shore of Point Fortin which was the first off shore oil
exploration in the world. In 1955, production from Trinmar's Soldado field
began. In 1958 the first well was started on a platform 1.2 miles offshore
from Brighton, La Brea. The platform was designed to accommodate 36 wells
which was a world record for this type of platform.
Thompson's company Trinidad Oilfields Limited, became
United British Oilfields of Trinidad (UBOT) in 1913 and then Shell Trinidad
Limited in 1957 and in 1974 was acquired by the Government and became
Trintoc and then Petrotrin.
As you drive through Point Fortin today you can
reflect on the determination and hardiness of the men who labored to
discover oil in the area and the impact those discoveries had on the
fortunes of Trinidad and Tobago.
originally got its name from Trinidad’s earliest inhabitants, the
Arawaks due to the natural vegetation that covered its region. In
conforming to their tribal traditions, the Arawaks were consistent
linking places containing vital resources or things that were
pre-dominate at the time.
Theplant or shrub vegetation which was omnipresent was a species of the
rosaceous plant family called the “Icaco”, which bears a plum
like fruit, purplish in colour which we now call the “Fat Pork”. The
Icacos still grows conspicuously on the tip of the South Western
The Area was one of
the landing spots for Italian Explorer Christopher Columbus
accompanied by his Spanish setters on the 3rd voyage on
the 31st July, 1498. Columbus came ashore in this area to
obtain water; later that night a huge wave caused the ship to lose its
anchor. Three hundred and fifty years later workers digging a drain on
Constance Estate discovered an anchor that tests subsequently confirmed was
the anchor from Columbus’s ship. The anchor was eventually sent to the
In 1797 when
Trinidad was captured by the British, the area was carefully
surveyed and mapped out by Surveyor Captain Frederick Mallet who
called the district, “Marsh of Icaque” (French term describing its
natural flora, lagoons and swamps.)
The village itself
developed an Agricultural and Fishing sector where most of the
population involve themselves in various methods of fishing as a
There is the drift
net or fillet fishing, banking which consists of a Boat at anchor
plying a fishing line of eight or ten hooks, the floating method
of deep sea fishing and the long line fishing technique using
300 to 400 hooks.
Night time fishing
also takes place mainly for Shrimp in beds that lie within the
vicinity of the Venezuelan waters.
Open air markets are a colorful, vibrant microcosm of West Indian life that can be
found in every town and village in Trinidad. All types of tropical fruits, vegetables and
spices are displayed and sold at these markets as well as freshly butchered meats and
fish. At these markets not only food items are sold but you can find clothes, shoes, home
utensils and even CDs or DVDs. An open-air market is a great place to shop or just wander
the aisles and soak in the atmosphere. The larger and more varied markets can be found at
Debe, Tunapuna and the Central Market on the Beetham Highway on the outskirts of Port of
Many people know of the US military bases at Chaguaramas and at Cumuto, but how many individuals realise that there
were numerous other US military bases in Trinidad.
The advent of World War II led to the Destroyer-Base Agreement (also called the
Lend-Lease agreement) on September 2nd 1940 between Britain and the United
States of America under which Britain granted land in Trinidad to the U.S. for the
establishment of U. S. military bases. Other territories in which land was granted for
bases under this agreement were Newfoundland, Bermuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia,
Antigua, and Guyana. At the time Trinidad was a British colony and so Britain was able to
grant the land. The first group of soldiers arrived in Trinidad on 24th April
1941 and set up a tent camp at Piarco Field, awaiting the planes which arrived on 28th
April. The third group arrived on 5th May 1941, at which time the majority of
men were moved to a tent camp on reclaimed land near the Port of Spain docks.
Although the original deal with Britain was for 2 bases (Chagaramas and Cumoto), in the
end there were 225 U. S. military bases in Trinidad. Some of these bases were very small
such as at the Verdant Vale quarry, which is located along the road between Arima and Blanchissuesse.
The area of Cumoto was one of the first locations for an army base and Fort Read was
established. Within Fort Read was constructed Waller Field airstrip at which two mile long
runways were built by June 1942. Other airfields that were constructed in Trinidad and
Tobago by the US military during World War II were Carlsen Field, Camden Field, Edinburgh
Field, Mucurapo Field, Crown Point Tobago, Toco, Mayaro, Point Fortin and Union Park. At
Edinburghthey built a 5,000 foot runway. The outline of the airfield at Toco can still be
seen and is located to the west of the Galera
Lighthouse. The old airfield at Point Fortin
is also still visible although heavily overgrown with brush.
One of the other bases established by the American military was the North Manzanilla
Jungle Warfare School. This was the first such school operated by the US Army and was
created to prepare troops to fight in South-east Asia. Originally it was located in the
Aripo foothills and today the only sign of that warfare school is the name etched on the
wall of a water installation.
Early in the war the school was moved to North Manzanilla. It extended from the sea for
a distance of 5 miles inland and was a restricted army base, where live ammunition was
used in the training. This warfare school operated throughout World War II and after the
war was transferred to Panama. Camp Road that leads from North
Manzanilla beach to Manzanilla Point was the site of the camp and still has World War
II ruins. To day the road is more of an agricultural trace but can be easily traversed on
foot or by a 4 wheel drive vehicle in the dry season. As you walk along this road, which
follows the contours of the land, there are points at which you can look over the
surrounding land and easily understand why it was chosen for a Jungle Warfare School.
The US military also had Gun Posts at Manzanilla Point, Radix Point, Pointe-a-Pierre,
Green Hill, Chacachacare, Monos, Gaspar Grande, Nelson
Island, Mucurapo Point, Laventille and Icacos.
During World War II a 4.7-inch cannon was installed on Gaspar Grande on the ridge overlooking Point Baleine to complement
another 4.7-inch cannon that had been placed there during World War I. At the end of the
war, two 6-inch guns replaced the original 4.7-inch cannons and these guns, which are a
25-minute walk from Point Baleine, are still present on the island. On Chacachacare, part of the island was given to the
US armed forces and a battalion of 600 men was based on the island. They built nine
military barracks, installed coastal defense guns and built a road to the top of the
865-foot (260-meter) main peak.
To supplement the islands coastal defenses there were radar installations at
Morne Bleau, La Lune and Charlotteville
Along with the airfields and gun posts that the Americans created around Port of Spain,
they also established Camp Ogden on Long Circular Road in St James. Camp Ogden continues
to be a military base and is now used by the Trinidad Defense Force. The headquarters for
the American military in Trinidad and Tobago was based in the historic Whitehall building on the western side of the
Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
The reason for all these bases is that Trinidad was a strategic location during World
War II. It was part of the US defense chain for protecting the approaches to the southern
part of the United States of America from attack by the Germans. Trinidads location
made it suitable as a staging area for moving aircraft to eastern South America. In
addition, during World War II, Pointe-A-Pierre had the largest oil refinery in the British
Empire. It was therefore important to protect this source of refined petroleum products to
ensure continued supplies for the war effort. The geography of Trinidad and its separation
from Venezuela millions of years ago to create the Gulf of Paria, was also another reason
for the large military presence. The Gulf of Paria is the largest natural harbour in the
Western Hemisphere, so it was the terminus of the North Atlantic convoy route. Along with
the American military, the Brazilian navy had ships based in Trinidad for escort duty
between Trinidad and Rio de Janeiro. Yet another reason for the military presence was that
the Bauxite route bringing bauxite from Surinam and Guyana for shipment to the U.S. for
making aluminum also passed through the Gulf of Paria.
All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of Brian Ramsey. None
of the photographs may be reproduced without the express written consent of Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey.