The Red House (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Red House (Trinidad and Tobago)

The building known as The Red House is the seat of Parliament in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The architectural design of the Red House is of greek revival style. The original building was destroyed in the 1903 water riots and it was rebuilt in the year 1907. The Red House is located centrally within the capital-city Port of Spain.

The Fire

In 1897, as Trinidad was preparing to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the buildings were given a coat of red paint, and the public promptly referred to them thereafter as the Red House. This direct ancestor of our present Red House was burnt to the ground on the 23rd March, 1903, during the Water Riots. On the day of the fire, while the new Ordinance regarding the distribution of and payment for water in the town was being debated in the Legislative Council, a protest meeting was held in Brunswick Square by the Ratepayer's Association, as there was much public dissatisfaction over certain clauses contained in the Ordinance which increased the water rates. At the end of the meeting, the crowds became noisy and stones were thrown, and all the windows of the Red House were smashed including a stained glass window in the chamber which was erected to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in Trinidad. When a woman was arrested by a policeman, the mob immediately became riotous. Stones were thrown into the Council Chamber and the Members were forced to protect themselves under tables and desks and behind the pillars. Still, the Governor, Sir A.C. Maloney, refused to withdraw the Ordinance. When it became known that the lower storey of the building was on fire, the riot act was read, following which the police opened fire on the crowd. Sixteen people were killed and forty-two injured, and the Red House was completely gutted. After the fire only the shell of the Red House remained.


The work of rebuilding it began the following year, and the Red House, as we know it today, was erected on the same site. It was opened to the public on the 4th February, 1907, by Governor, Sir H.M. Jackson.

The building was designed and built by D. M. Hahn, Chief Draughtsman of the Public Works, at an estimated cost of £7,485. This sum included the "gesso" (plaster-of-paris mixture prepared with glue) work in the Legislative Council Chamber and the Justice Hall, which was estimated at £7,200.

The work was completed in 1906. The ceiling is the most striking feature in the Chamber. It is Wedgewood blue with white gesso work and was the work of Messrs. Jackson & Sons, an English firm.

The decorations were made in England in panels, and shipped to Trinidad in crates.

An Italian craftsman was sent to install the ceiling.

The entablature and dais at the eastern end were also designed by D. M. Hahn. The columns and entablature are made of purple heart wood, while the panelling is fustic (yellow tinted wood commonly found in South America). The passageway between the two buildings which replaced the double archway, is no longer open to vehicular traffic. The fountain in the centre of the rotunda was designed by D. M. Hahn as a means of cooling and ventilation for the offices, in the days before air-conditioning. The offices of the early Red House, with the exception of the Governor's office and that of the Colonial Secretary, comprised offices for the Attorney-General, Registrar-General Lands & Surveys Department, Judges' Chambers, the Courts of Justice and the Parliament and Law Libraries, as well as the Legislative Council Chamber, which is now the Parliament Chamber. At present, the building is being restored for the exclusive use of the Parliament.

The Red House today is the second Government building to be known by this name since the newly-constructed government offices were built on the same site and given the same name. The name Brunswick Square was changed to Woodford Square during World War I in 1914-1918. The rubble which was removed after the fire was used as landfill for Victoria and Harris Squares; so when you stroll through these public squares you may literally be walking on the history of the Red House.

ee also

*The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

External links

* [ The Red House]

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