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History missing passion

A respected Barbadian historian wants to see Barbadians become as passionate about their heritage and history as American.

Senator Henry Fraser expressed this view earlier today while addressing members of the Barbados Institute of Architects and the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers at the Yacht Club on Upper Bay Street, St. Michael.

Fraser used the example of a decision taken by then Prime Minister Tom Adams to acquire the Jewish Synogogue on Magazine Lane, the City, which dated back to the 1650s, demolish it and build a new Supreme Court building on the site.

The independent senator said: “All of the airline magazines, the Maclean’s that I bought in Canada, they were all full of architectural history, and heritage and restoration. The famous Baltimore Hotel where legionnaires’ disease had occurred back in the 1970s and which had been abandoned for many years had just been restored. And I bought a book in the bookshop next to the restaurant where I had lunch in London, Ontario, which said Historic London. It was a book on which I modelled my historic houses of Barbados. The oldest house in that book was built in 1830s.”

He acknowledged that it was this experience that made him passionate and committed to trying to do something to let Barbadians appreciate their heritage.

Fraser said following representation by Paul Altman and his friends, Adams became receptive to Barbadian heritage and decided to vest the synogogue in the National Trust.

He said the National Trust had put a proposal to Adams that tax incentives should be provided for people who were restoring properties and who were going to convert them to adaptive re-use.

“Take the Waterfront Cafe,” he said, “an old warehouse converted into a very successful restaurant and for me the absolute model of adaptive re-use and conservation of a historic building. The National Trust tried to get Adams to agree to apply what was then in use in the USA. In the USA in 1980s they had a system of tax credits whereby if a property owner bought a property for $1 million and restored it and then proceeded to use it as a business place, but the property owner made a profit of $300,000 in the first year after it was restored, in many places in the USA and Europe tax incentives would allow the property owner to have that cost credited against his income for that year.

“For a brief period in the USA, they allowed you to amortise the cost of restoration over five years. So if a property owner made a profit of only $300,000 and paid tax on that sum of money in the first year, but the property owner spent $1 million in the restoration, the property owner could take that $700,000 remaining in the costs and amortise it over your tax incomes for the next four years.”

In the United Kingdom they do it differently, he said, noting the government refunds the VAT on everything spent on the restoration of a historic building.

Fraser reported that the National Trust had “pleaded, begged, cajoled, written, tried to persuade that these tax incentives should be provided” here. (NC)†† † † †† ††††

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