FROM TRAGEDY - IN­SPI­RA­TION FROM THE FLAMES - A NEW CRE­ATION

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The fe­ro­cious blaze that con­sumed the his­toric cen­tre of Soufriere in Oc­to­ber, leav­ing be­hind a trail of em­bers and tears, im­pacted on the de­sign team of Boka Group, who had just com­pleted a month pho­tograph­ing the his­toric build­ings of the Is­land as part of their con­cept de­sign work­shop in prepa­ra­tion of the new 5* re­sort fa­cil­ity to be built at nearby Belvedere Plan­ta­tion.

Com­pany ar­chi­tect, Iva Petkovic said, “Not only did Soufriere in­spire us, but the build­ings of Church Street drew our at­ten­tion. Our pho­to­graphs of those build­ings now re­duced to ash are a heavy in­spi­ra­tion to us and have been ex­ten­sively recorded in our ar­chives. By a sad irony, one of the build­ings de­stroyed in Church Street was a fam­ily home of our own Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor (Saint Lucia), Mr Ge­orge Al­cin­dor. This strong link gives us a de­ter­mi­na­tion to rein­car­nate the ver­nac­u­lar and de­signs of those build­ings within the new ones that will rise at Belvedere Plan­ta­tion. We be­lieve they will be sym­bolic of Saint Lucia’s core char­ac­ter and strength of spirit - al­ways fac­ing ad­ver­sity as an ob­sta­cle and not an end”.

Boka Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Ge­orge Al­cin­dor said “The fam­ily home in Church Street, where my grand­par­ents lived, was the place of many of my child­hood mem­o­ries and it was con­sumed by the flames on the night of Thurs­day 22nd Oc­to­ber. In the grotesque heat, one hun­dred years was re­duced to ash in one hun­dred min­utes but the spirit and ar­chi­tec­ture of those build­ings all of us are so fa­mil­iar with as Saint Lu­cians has be­come the in­spi­ra­tion for new build­ings that will soon rise at Belvedere Plan­ta­tion. This is a trib­ute to Saint Lucia’s unique style and is sym­bolic of what we have been try­ing to cre­ate at Belvedere Plan­ta­tion: some­thing new, but not alien; visi­tors to the Is­land will be able to live the spirit of Saint Lucia. It is true to say that the sad demise of some­thing spe­cial has di­rectly led to in­spi­ra­tion in our de­sign process.” HIS­TORIC NOTE Soufriere no stranger to fire Soufriere Fire. June 9th, 1955

On the evening of Cor­pus Christi, on an­other Thurs­day 70 years ago at about 7.30 in the evening, some­one had left a pot unat­tended in a two­s­torey wooden house be­tween the Soufriere Hos­pi­tal and the pres­bytery. The house burst into flames and with it one closely sit­u­ated property af­ter an­other be­gan to be con­sumed. The wooden struc­tures fed a fire that raged un­con­trol­lably through­out the town.

In spite of the heroic ef­forts of the col­lec­tive fire crews, al­most half of the town was com­pletely de­stroyed. The fire de­stroyed 387 houses and left over 2,400 res­i­dents home­less. Only one per­son died as a re­sult of the fire: Mrs. Mada­lene Mercier who died from shock.

The morn­ing af­ter the fire, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, the Red Cross and other vol­un­teers ar­rived to help the fire stricken com­mu­nity. Within days of the calamity, there was con­struc­tion of tem­po­rary hous­ing, the restora­tion of pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and a mass in­oc­u­la­tion to pre­vent a ty­phoid epi­demic.

Less than a week later, the tragedy was raised on the floor of the House of Com­mons in Lon­don: House of Com­mons De­bate 15 June 1955 vol 542 cc112W 11W ST. LUCIA (SOUFRIERE FIRE) 52. Sir R. Robin­son asked the Sec­re­tary of State what dam­age was done and how many peo­ple were ren­dered home­less by the re­cent fire at Soufriere in St. Lucia; and what steps have been taken to pro­vide im­me­di­ate re­lief in this area.

Mr. Hop­kin­son: Three hun­dred and eighty-seven build­ings, or about three-fifths of the town, were de­stroyed. It is es­ti­mated that some 2,400 peo­ple were made home­less. The St. Lucia Gov­ern­ment, with valu­able help from the lo­cal Red Cross and other vol­un­tary work­ers, are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to relieve dis­tress. Food and tem­po­rary shel­ter have been ar­ranged and pre­cau­tions taken to safe­guard health. Pub­lic util­ity ser­vices have been re­stored.

The Gov­ern­ments, the lo­cal Red Cross So­ci­eties and the pub­lic of neigh­bour­ing ter­ri­to­ries, and the Bri­tish Red Cross, have re­sponded to the Act­ing Gov­er­nor’s ap­peal with prompt and gen­er­ous of­fers of help. Some re­lief sup­plies have al­ready ar­rived by air. I feel sure that the whole House will wish my right Hon. friend to con­vey their sym­pa­thy with the vic­tims of this dis­as­ter.

Mem­o­ries of Soufriere be­fore the re­cent fire cap­tured by the Boka group to serve

as an in­spi­ra­tion for the Belvedere project.

Once a sig­nif­i­cant land­mark in Soufriere.

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