MILLE Fleurs stands grey and forlorn, like the literary character Miss Havisham, a half-crazed old woman in a bedraggled wedding gown, waiting, waiting, waiting, for her day to come.
Great expectations indeed.
Even a palm tree to her front looks depressed.
Old sheets hang limply from a top-floor window. She breathes through open windows, yet others are blocked shut by board.
Yet her former glory is seen in the her elegant limbs that support the ground-level roof. Her hems are still-elegant cast-iron railings.
A portaloo stands on-site, but otherwise there is no evidence of any actual work being done to restore the centenarian to her former beauty. However there are good portents. Firstly, her neighbours Queen’s Royal College and Stollmeyer’s Castle, that both underwent their own renovations, stand proudly in fine form, surely an inspiration to those wishing better for Mille Fleurs. Secondly, the site has been protectively enclosed. It is blocked from the view of passing motorists circulating Queen’s Park Savannah by a fence of blue galvanised iron sheets (some of which are slightly damaged, possibly by thieves). Further, the house is protected from wind, rain and sun by a huge green roof atop red steel beams, reminiscent of the protective roof used at the ongoing Red House restoration. A sign on the fence indicates, perhaps as a good omen, “Caution. Construction work ahead.” Udecott chairman Noel Garcia on Thursday told Newsday, “We had received the dilapidation survey and got it costed, and have prepared a note that we will hopefully submit to Cabinet next week, as a number of other things had tied us up. Nothing has changed to what I’d told you last time.” Newsday asked about the temporary roof. “That roof was put there to protect the building from the elements.
“Once we get the approval which we expect to get, the first order of business is to repair the roof of Mille Fleurs, and then do the other restoration work.” He said the temporary roof was provided by roofing dismantled from the Red House, itself under renovation.
Mille Fleurs, meaning “A Thousand Flowers”, was built in 1903 for one Dr Enrique Prada by his wife. He ultimately became Mayor of Port of Spain.
The National Trust says the building’s style is French provincial, and while less ostentatious than its neighbours, its finish and detailing are of a far higher quality including its ironwork and its marble staircase. It was designed by Scotsman George Brown, dubbed TT’s greatest 19th century architect.
In 2013 Citizens for Conservation publicly protested for the building’s restoration, while in 2016 the National Trust warned, “The building does not have a future if the present situation continues.”