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August 7, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
The Prince s Building is one of those
key institutions of the Trinidad of yes-
teryear which future generations may
never know existed. In 1861, Prince
Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, was
due to visit Trinidad as part of a tour
of the British West Indies. This put
the local colonial administration into
a furore since there was no place in
Port-of-Spain fit for the accommo-
dation of the Prince.
The Government House at St Ann s
was little more than a wooden cottage,
in sore need of repair (the stone mansion
which later replaced it was not begun
until 1875), the hotels of the city were
little more than disreputable rooming
houses, and the only public building of
some substance was the Red House.
These were certainly inadequate for the
housing of a prince, far less the
entourage that would usually accom-
pany the royal personage.
As a result, Governor R W Keate,
commissioned the construction of an
ornate, roomy lodge on a lot of land
south of the Queen s Park Savannah.
The project was undertaken by the Pub-
lic Works Department) and completed
in five months, which for a Trinidadian
government institution must be some
kind of unbroken record.
The brick foundations of the old
Government House on Belmont Hill
(present site of the Hilton Trinidad)
were demolished and the bricks incor-
porated into the Prince s Building as
the new structure was to be called.
A handsome fountain was installed
near the portico. The finished edifice
was a long, low bungalow of local wood
and wrought iron. All the efforts were
in vain, however, since Prince Alfred
was waylaid by illness and never made
his much-expected visit.
The building did not go to waste.
It became a forum for the people.
The large open-floor plan made it
an excellent dancehall and concert
venue and it was used to the fullest.
Many fancy dances and dinners
were held here, bested only by a
rare invitation to the Governor s
Mansion and by a soiree at the
Queen s Park Hotel which opened
in 1895. Operas were also regularly
held here with foreign troupes vis-
iting the island to sell-out crowds.
The Prince s Building was put
to civic use also. On June 3, 1870,
the Queen s Collegiate School was
founded, with the first classes
being held in the Prince s Building.
This secondary school for boys
was founded because the Governor,
Sir Arthur Gordon, felt that there
was a need for a good secular insti-
tution of the sort Queen s Colle-
giate School later became Queen s
Royal College and moved to its
present location on March 24,
In 1910, a government high
school for girls was opened at this
location, and closed in 1922 with
the establishment of Bishop Anstey
Another educational institute to
run out of the Prince s Building
was the private Pamphylian High
School, (1942-47) which counted
among its tutors, a budding aca-
demic known as C L R James.
Although Prince Alfred never
stayed in the building so hastily
erected for him, other royalty
graced its floors in later years.
The list includes:
• January 14, 1880---Princes
Albert and George (later King
George V), grandsons of Queen
Victoria, who visited the island as
midshipmen aboard the HMS Bac-
chante and were entertained by a
Gilbert and Sullivan performance
by Canon Doorly
• September 17, 1920---H R H
Edward, Prince of Wales (later King
Edward VIII) who was visiting the
island and was honoured with a
ball at the Prince s Building. He
was later immortalised in calypso
when he abdicated the throne to
marry his divorcee love Wallis
Simpson...Is love, love, love alone,
cause King Edward tuh leave de
• February 3, 1955---Princess
Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth
II, attended a civic reception in
her honour whilst on a tour of the
In 1948, the old Port-of-Spain
Town Hall on the corner of Knox
and Frederick Streets burned down,
and the City Council called the
Prince s Building home until a new
hall was erected in 1961. The
Prince s Building also hosted many
During the two world wars
(1914-18, 1939-45), many fund-
raisers were held here to raise aid
The Societe Les Amantes de
Jesus, a longstanding charitable lay
group, held an annual Christmas
treat here from the very late 1880s,
well into the 1940s. From 1967-
71, the Ministry of Health was at
the Prince s Building.
In 1977, this historic structure
burned to the ground. The empty
site, with its fountain, became an
impromptu meeting place and
public playground, hosting every-
thing from circuses to tent-revivals.
It is now the site of the National
Academy for the Performing Arts.
Fit for a prince?
The Prince's Building circa 1890.
The rear view of the Prince's Building.
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