"George Brown" House | Photograph: Courtesy Geoffrey MacLean 17 May 2009
Written by Geoffrey MacLean
The “George Brown House” was the centre of controversy when there were plans for its demolition it in 1985 to make way for a new office complex. This led to the “George Brown Uprising” as John Newel-Lewis described it and the establishing of Citizens for Conservation. Because of the public outcry, the house was saved and subsequently restored.
The building was designed by architect George Brown in 1888 for the Seigert family. George Brown’s daughter, Jessie Simpson, and her husband bought it from the Prado family in 1941. She lived there with her sister, Jane Brown, until her death in 1959. Jane continued living there until her death in 1980.
George Brown was Trinidad’s great nineteenth century architect. Brown studied at the Glasgow Anthenaeum where he qualified as a builder/architect in the late 1870’s. He joined the firm of Gregor Turnbull and Company of Glasgow and was sent to Trinidad in June 1883. His designs reflect his Scottish origins, incorporating cast iron work from foundries in Glasgow as well as the introduction of decorative fretwork from woodworking machines imported from Scotland.
In 1891, the “Great Fire of Port of Spain” devastated much of Marine Square (now Independence Square) and lower Frederick Street, Port of Spain’s central square and main commercial street. George Brown redesigned the area in a distinctive style of balconies with cast iron balustrading extending over the pavements, decorative fretwork to the gables and eaves of the buildings, and large central atriums with high clerestory windows which provided cooling cross-ventilation and light to the interior of the buildings.
George Brown returned to Scotland in 1920 where he retired to cultivate vegetables and flowers until his death in 1936.