Nassau, Bahamas – As renovations to Government House continue, the old charm it once held is gradually being restored.
Alicia Oxley, historic preservation architect at the Antiquities Museums and Monuments Corporation said the objective of the exercise is to “restore Government House as much as possible to what it used to be”.
Minister of Public Works and Transport the Hon. Neko Grant, along with a team of ministry officials visited Government House and inspected the areas included in the major renovation exercise.
The $394,766.85 contract for the restoration of the Veranda for the Ballroom Wing was signed in February 2008. According to Ms. Oxley $826,690.77 was later approved to undertake further renovations.
Ms. Oxley noted that during Dame Ivy Dumont’s tenure as Governor General, interior designer Melville Doty was hired to make the residence as “‘royal as we could have it”. Staff of the Ministry of Works headed by Steve Pennerman and other private contractors including Floyd Wilmott of Telco Enterprise Construction Company has also carried out renovations.
Government House, also known as Mount Fitzwilliam, is divided into three areas – the Mansion, the Ballroom and Office, and accommodations in the Windsor Wing for employees of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Ministry of Works.
“Doty upgraded the bedrooms upstairs and opened verandas that were enclosed to what they used to be. Downstairs he refitted the dining room. My involvement came in trying to retain the historic aspect of it. We tried not to remove everything.
“Doty had made representation to Dame Ivy Dumont for the interior of the Ballroom. He adapted everything to what we had. We used Doty’s knowledge of imperial colours. At first the Ballroom was decorated with royal red now he’s decided to use gold,” said Oxley.
The Ballroom is also adorned with gold drapes accentuated by gold carpet. The chairs that have been ordered are a shade of white. Lighting has been improved and a sound system has been added.
In addition to upstairs and downstairs verandas and construction of bathrooms for the office area, the pink and white outdoor tiles were replaced with concrete-finished tiles and a residential elevator was provided making two out of the three wings now handicap accessible.
In 1996 a handicap lift was installed to the southern side of the building. However Ms. Oxley explained that the front entrance had to be chambered to make the floor entrance to the Ballroom the same level as the Ballroom. “If a handicap individual comes into the lift they can now be accommodated in the Ballroom where the doors open,” said Ms. Oxley.
As to future plans, Ms. Oxley said she would like a proper study of the grounds and landscaping to be done. “There should be some research as to what was there or designs can be created to enhance the remainder of the property. I would also like to see handicap accessible public toilets and a vehicle is needed to transport supplies and equipment,” said the architect.
105000 – Public Works and Transport Minister the Hon. Neko Grant inspects newly installed concrete-finished tiles a part of the renovations to Government House. Also pictured are representatives of the Ministry of Works and Alicia Oxley, historic preservation architect at the Antiquities, Museums and Monuments Corporation, at far right. (BIS PHOTO/Letisha Henderson)
111158 – Alicia Oxley, preservation architect shows the Hon. Neko Grant, Minister of Public Works and Transport (5th front left) the wooden floors that have been added along with the verandas as part of the renovations to Government House. Colin Higgs, permanent secretary is also pictured (second from left) and Renward Wells, mechanical engineer is shown at far right. (BIS PHOTO/Letisha Henderson)
111431 – The Hon. Neko Grant, Minister of Public Works and Transport (front) looks at the gold carpet recently installed in the Ballroom at Government House. Also shown from left is Steven Pennerman, maintenance superintendent at Government House employed by the Ministry of Works and Alicia Oxley, historic preservation architect at the Antiquities, Museums and Monuments Corporation. (BIS PHOTO/Letisha Henderson)