THE National Trust is investigating why the gingerbread house on Jerningham Avenue in Belmont, which once housed the Pan American Health Organization office, was earmarked for demolition despite agreement that it should be preserved.
National Trust chairman Margaret McDowell told Newsday on Monday that while demolition work on the building was yet to begin, the contractor hired to do the job, opened up the space which allowed scavengers to ransack the building and take away anything of value that was not nailed down.
“They threw out a lot of things they did not want. They made a complete and utter mess. They ripped out doors and anything they thought they could go with, they ripped off galvanise,” McDowell said.
Newsday was told that following a site visit in 2018, the house was deemed suitable for restoration since the original design was retained and not altered through the decades.
A gingerbread house, she said, is valued by the trust because of its architecture. The fretwork – ornamental wood design, jalousie – French louvres and high roof are among the defining features of a gingerbread house and because parts of Belmont have several such houses it was supposed to be named a heritage district.
However, weeks ago, the gates to the building were removed, which allowed scavengers to move in. McDowell said she had a meeting with the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) and the contractor to see what went wrong.
The trust, Citizens for Conservation, Udecott and NH International (Caribbean) discussed ways to ensure the site is properly secured to prevent further vandalism. The building now has a security presence. A 3D scan of the building will be done so the trust has a recording of what is in the building.
McDowell said the best outcome for the gingerbread house would be to keep the building, assess the damage and establish a clear understanding that it is not to be destroyed. The Trust has a list of over 500 properties on its asset registrar. She said a building does not have to be very old to fit the criteria to be deemed a heritage site.
The trust has asked Town and Country Planning to notify it when any request for construction or demolition work is made on buildings that is 50 years old or older.
“That’s what they have been doing and clearly something has gone wrong (in the case of this gingerbread house). What more do we have to do to get our instructions across?
“Not every building has to be saved, but we have to be consulted. If it has to come down, we can salvage some of the heritage on the building,” McDowell said.
The site on Jerningham Avenue is earmarked for Ministry of Health offices. Another building on the site will be removed to make way for the ministry’s new building.
The trust is asking anyone who has information about the history, design and construction of these buildings to contact it through Facebook at ttnationaltrust or contact the trust at firstname.lastname@example.org