Orhan Pamuk wrote movingly of "the melanchololy of ruins." Today the people of Barbados are melancholy as a priceless piece of their history went up in flames late last month.
Located on a coco palm-shaded strand of southeast coast beach, the iconic coral rock castle was the 1820 Regency trophy home of a true pirate of the Caribbean, Samuel Hall Lord. At one point in the mid-1900s it was owned by family of my friend Richard Goddard, a bulldog preservationist dubbed by Bajan media the country's "most stubborn man.'' Bostonians may remember the castle as a Marriott resort in more recent times.
From this in its resort heyday:
To this, when I saw it while hiking Barbados (photo by Patricia Borns):in 2008:
To this (photo courtesy Betty Atkinson):
The demise of Sam Lord's began when Trinidadian insurance giant CLICOT purchased the property in 2007 with promises of restoring it. Meanwhile, it stood, unguarded except for its homeless occupants, as the company, whose finances collapsed in 2009, allowed it to decay for five years (photo courtesy of Hans Machel):
Hiking around the island, I stumbled upon untold numbers of historic properties quietly reverting to coral dust. Here, and throughout the Caribbean, they follow a similar pattern.
(Photos by Patricia Borns.)
If I found these ruins hauntingly beautiful, it is because, writes Pamuk, I am an outsider, a traveler. To those who live in a place, they stir an anguish for a past that can never be reclaimed.
Sam Lord's is being discussed (and mourned and ranted about) on Barbados Free Press.