ANGUILLA GREAT HOUSE RECOVERING/REBUILDING AFTER IRMA

anguillian
By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:49 Updated

 

 

 

Located on the open beachfront, at Rendezvous Bay, on the south coast of Anguilla, the fully locally-owned Anguilla Great House, with its original Caribbean-style tray roofs of galvanise and wood, sustained immense damage when Hurricane Irma raced across the island at 185 miles per hour (or more).

All of the buildings, except the new one, which was structured differently, and now serves as a temporary office/reception area, completely lost their roofs. The front office building has had to be demolished and is being rebuilt. Originally built predominantly from wood, the buildings are now being remodelled with reinforced concrete porches which also provide privacy divisions for guests.
Major shareholder of the Anguilla Great House, Mr. Conrad Walton Fleming, known for his resilience and capacity for hard work, is perhaps one of the busiest persons in Anguilla as he supervises a team of construction workers to restore the property. He is ably assisted by his son, Conrad Wilbert Fleming, long-time Manager of the hotel, and a Master of Business Administration graduate from the University of Liverpool.

The Anguillian caught up with Mr. Fleming, senior, for an interview this week. “The hotel will be stronger because where there was wood and sheeting, we are now putting concrete,” he explained. “For example, the back and front porches are now in concrete. The roofing is going to be aluminium. This is a non-corrosive material of a heavy gauge and lasts forever. With this structure now, the damage will not happen again. As is the case with this new building, it has concrete porches and the ceiling was not affected. We will be copying this in the other buildings – and it will still be a Caribbean concept.”

Mr. Fleming estimates that the recovery process will cost up to three million US dollars which he is providing from his personal funds – rather than the delay in waiting for the approval of insurance claims.
Wilbert, like his father, is equally anxious to see the hotel restored without much delay. “Anybody who looks back at history will realise that the Anguilla Great House has never closed its doors for any reason whatsoever over the years,” he stated. “This hurricane was no normal storm. We suffered severe structural damage to at least all of the buildings [except one]. Our responsibility is now to try to get the Anguilla Great House reopen as fast as possible, but we don’t want to rush it with injustice. Given the situation on the island, it is difficult to obtain materials delivered to Anguilla from different parts of the Caribbean or from Miami.
“We are challenged by the inability to be able to give any kind of timeline as to when we can reopen because we have to import everything – cement, aluminium, wood etc. Roofing material is being sought by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and everybody else, so we are fighting with everybody else to get materials here. With all that being said, we can’t even give an idea about when we feel we might reopen until we get the roofs on. If we get our materials early, we will be able to adjust our timeline and make a decision on when we could finish the work that needs to be done.

“We have also lost all of our stuff: beds, linen, electronics, and everything else from inside the rooms – because the roofs went off, water came in, and everything got destroyed. We have nowhere to store our supplies so we even can’t buy them, put them down, and hold on to them until we are ready. This also depends on the availability of funds as well. When we manage to get our insurance claims, and we look at what we can add to the recovery process, we will have an idea of when we can reopen, but we know for sure that we will miss the season. We had to begin spending our money because if we waited we would be behind everybody. We cannot wait although it is difficult to get materials.”
Construction of the Anguilla Great House started in 1985, following the building and establishment of the National Bank of Anguilla. “Thirty odd years ago we saw tourism becoming the major economic mainstay on the island,” Mr. Fleming recalled. “We thought, as Anguillians, we [the group of initial shareholders], should get together and obtain a piece of the industry because if foreigners had been given an opportunity to obtain this beach land, it would have been gone to them – and where would Anguillians have been?”

He went on: “Many of the shareholders, who bought shares in the company [Great House] at the beginning, did not realise what the economic situation would have been. Some people expected that their dividends would pay back, but with the financial problems at the time, they sold out their shares. I kept buying up these shares to get money to continue building the project and I may be the major shareholder. The Anguilla Great House is still a company and we still do financial reports which are up to date from since 1985.”
Mr. Fleming said the Anguilla Great House began with 25 rooms. Two more were added later, followed by another five. “This is phase one which also includes the current restaurant which was originally intended to be a beach bar. A formal restaurant is planned for phase 2 later on. It will be an expensive building which, at today’s cost, will involve about six million US dollars.” According to Mr. Fleming. “It will be a three-storey building with a formal dining room, a formal bar, candle lights, as well as a back house with everything else in that building.”
Rendezvous Bay, which Mr. Fleming proudly speaks about, is of much historic importance to Anguillians. It was there that French invaders landed from two frigates in 1796, and made their way along the island, spreading havoc and destruction until they were eventually repelled, with significant losses, by an Anguillian battalion force at Sandy Hill.
The Anguilla Great House at Rendezvous Bay is thought to be a symbol of a people known for their resilience, strength, endurance and bravery. The restoration and continued development of that property will add much high value to the exquisitely beautiful and historic beachfront land – and Anguilla’s developing tourism industry.

anguillian
By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:49 Updated
  • Susan Valentine

    Very happy to see this landmark being rebuilt. Many thousands of visitors have enjoyed Rondouvous Bay and the Great House over the years. Best wishes to Mr Fleming and family.

  • WarningU2

    Excellent article and good news about the rebuilding of AGH.

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