SVG National Trust agreed to demolition of remnants of historic terminal building
As far back as 2017, the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust and Coreas Distribution Limited (CDL) had discussed the demolition of the remnants of the terminal building of this country’s first airport as well as the preservation of the history and heritage of the site.
This is according to the contents of a letter from the National Trust to CDL’s architect Aurin Bennett, which were shared with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday.
On November 3, 2020, CDL broke ground for construction of a 64,000 square foot, $27.7 million state of the art warehouse and administrative centre at Diamond on the site of this country’s first airport, which was commissioned for passenger service in 1934.
The Diamond airport was closed in the early 1950s, but today, the Arygle International Airport (and before that, the ET Joshua airport) still carries the designation code SVD, which is an abbreviation of St Vincent, Diamond.
After publication of an article in last weekend’s edition of SEARCHLIGHT about the destruction of the remnants of the airport terminal, some persons expressed that not enough had been done to preserve the memory of that first airport at Diamond, while others said CDL should not have been given permission to demolish the structure.
But according to a source close to the development who asked not to be identified, there was nothing of the old terminal building that could be saved.
The source said that when the contractors and architect Aurin Bennett visited the site five years ago, they observed that a Diamond resident had fenced the old terminal building and was rearing about 20 pigs inside the structure.
The source added that a massive tree was growing inside the building and because the structure had no reinforced steel, the tree had damaged the building beyond repair.
It was noted also that all that told the story of the first airport was a hardly visible sign that said “Welcome to SVD”.
According to the source, meetings were therefore held between Bennett, the National Trust and CDL to devise a plan to help keep the memory of SVD alive.
On Wednesday, the contents of a letter sent by the National Trust to Bennett of Aurin Bennett Architects Inc and CDL/Goddards Enterprises were shared with SEARCHLIGHT.
The letter, captioned “Old Diamond Airport” stated some of the issues with the Diamond site and what the National Trust suggested could be done to preserve the memory.
“The meeting agreed that the remnants of the first Vincentian airport which is now a part of CDL/Goddards Enterprise had fallen into total disrepair and is structurally unsound.
“Despite the current state of the building, efforts MUST be made to preserve the history and heritage of this important landmark.
“There will be a pictorial display of the old airport as an act of preservation. The display should be easily accessible to the public, hence the display should be in triplicate. One display should be in the main lobby of the new property accompanied with clear directional signage.
“The National Trust will determine the location of the other two displays. Additionally a 15 x 10 monument with inscription (to be determined by the St. Vincent National Trust) can be erected in the vicinity of the car park which falls to the right of the old terminal building,” the letter from the National Trust said.
The letter, dated October 5, 2017 and signed by interim chairman of the National Trust Descima Alexander-Hamilton, went on to state that the National Trust anticipates that the efforts to preserve the historical status of the area will be kept.
The SVG National Trust (Amendment) Act No. 37 of 2007 gives the Trust the power to declare sites protected national heritage sites.
When CDL applied to the Physical Planning Department for permission to construct their warehouse and administrative centre on the Diamond site, the October 5, 2017 letter from the National Trust was included in support of the application.
Last week, Jimmie Forde, CDL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) told SEARCHLIGHT the company is aware of the importance of preserving national heritage sites and has incorporated a historic reference to the first airport in their construction plans.
He said they have come up with two ideas to allow for the memory of SVD: one is to create a wall or sort of monument on the site or an interpretation centre inside the lobby of the new building.
Forde said if the monument is chosen, it will show where the terminal building was located, among other things and if they go with the interpretation centre, once someone enters the lobby, they will see photos of the old airport and other things that help with remembering how the area was during airport operations.
“We are trying to get photos of the old airport in operation so we can display and show the new generation what it was like,” Forde said.
CDL is part of Caribbean Distribution Partners Ltd., a joint venture company formed by Goddard Enterprises Ltd. based in Barbados and Agostini’s Ltd, based in Trinidad.