The Original Administration Building
A Place of Beauty, Honour and History
by Patricia J. Adams
Sandwiched between the Social Security Complex and the present Administration Building is a historical site that was very prominent and instrumental before, during and after the Anguilla Revolution.
This majestic building was designed by Trinidadian born Mr. Best who was the Deputy Superintendent of Public Works in the three island colony of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. Started in late 1959, construction was completed in early 1960. Mr. William Walters of St. Kitts was overseer of the construction of the building and the main work was done by workers of the Public Works Department of Anguilla.
Mr. Kenneth Hazell of South Hill had won his seat to the House of Parliament in St. Kitts, in the general three-island election on November 6th, 1957. He was the Anguilla representative during this period and along with Mr. David (Vanny) Lloyd, an ardent politician and former Labour Party Representative petitioned Mr. Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, leader of the three-island State for such a complex.
The facility was built on a gently sloping plot of land. Beginning at the lower western end, the building housed The Courthouse, The Registrar, The Post Office, The Magistrate’s Office, The Treasury, a few jail cells and The Police Station with its limited parking space for two or three police vans on the higher eastern end.
“I HAVE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED MY COURSE,”
Occupying the varied offices of this building upon its completion were Magistrate, Mr. George Thomas, a Vincentian who worked for the Central Government, Ms. Evelyn Lloyd of The Valley affectionately known as Teacher Lorry was clerk in The Registrar. Mr. Cecil Richardson of George Hill headed the Post Office, while Mr. Olney Rey also of George Hill and Mr. Crispin Gumbs of The Forest worked in The Treasury. The jail cells housed the few persons who were arrested for crimes. If they were convicted with sentences of six months or longer, they were sent to prison in St. Kitts. Next door, farthest east, the eight to twelve policemen from St. Kitts/Nevis and other Caribbean islands occupied the Police Station and finally, there was the garage for the Police vehicles.
This building came to fruition after Hurricane Alice struck Anguilla on January 2nd, 1955 and destroyed the Courthouse Building on Anguilla’s highest hill, Crocus Hill, where the Government offices were housed in the wooden upstairs, while the stone-wall jail/prison was downstairs. Before 1955, the Police Station was housed in close proximity to the said Courthouse and the nearby home of Mr. Uriel Gumbs, a retired Headmaster of one of the primary schools was used as the Registrar for birth, marriage and death certificates.
Following the destruction of the Crocus Hill building, these offices were moved to the home of Mr. William Gumbs, (Uncle Willie’s) two floor building opposite the (then) Valley Secondary School but, maybe because of its size, all offices were again moved a few yards to the east in the Babrow Complex behind the (then) Babrow haberdashery store or the present premises.
This lone, new building on the southern fringe of The Valley, but not too far from the (former) Wall Blake airport was landscaped with flowering plants near to the building and mahogany trees lining the parking lot. These avenue-styled trees were among many that graced both sides of the main road which stretched from ‘The Factory’, a multi-faceted haberdashery in the west, to the junction opposite the late Rev. Raphael Lake’s home in the east. The National Bank of Anguilla, (formerly NBA), The House of Assembly Building and The Courthouse are now built over the eastern end of that road, destroying all the mahogany trees there. Thankfully, many of the said trees immediately in front of this building are still standing. Vehicles entered from the west and exited at the east, and a well-plotted parking lot was laid out under the mahogany trees that were closest to the building. As could be expected, it was a hub point all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and half-day on Thursday and Saturday.
This structure was scarred with many bullet holes as Anguillian revolutionaries attacked the St. Kitts police with gun fire many nights in an effort to evict them. On May 29th there was another one of the many public meetings which were usually held on the (then) Burrowes Park. There, according to Mr. Colville Petty in A Handbook History of Anguilla, “several Anguillians voted by show of hands, at a public meeting on Burrowes Park, in favour of finally expelling the St. Kitts policemen from the island on 30th May.” This writer was present at that meeting and as a fifteen year old girl, raised her hand. Prior to that date, there were many political meetings, demonstrations, the destruction of The Magistrate’s home in Landsome and on March 8th, 1968, Dr. Hyde’s home by fire. Other rumblings indicative of Anguilla’s determination to be separated from St. Kitts-Nevis were taking place all over the island.
Then came the day that is now a designated public holiday in Anguilla (Anguilla Day) and which past and present persons consider to be the crowning and most memorable day of our Revolution.
Early on the morning of May 30th 1967, hundreds of riled Anguillians led by Messrs. Peter Adams, Ronald Webster, Atlin Harrigan, Wallace Rey, John (Bob) Rogers, Collins Hodge and other revolutionary leaders, gathered at the eastern end of the Administration Building in front of the Police Station and confronted the Acting Superintendent, Mr. Charles Edgings and his thirteen policemen. They were commanded to give up their guns and pack their belongings. Perhaps delighted and with hardly any resistance, they were transported to the puny, primitive terminal and dirt strip airport and flown out on Valley Air Service, an airline owned and commandeered on this occasion by Mr. Clayton Lloyd. Determined to hold on to Anguilla, Mr. Bradshaw sent a detachment of policemen from St. Kitts aboard a Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) flight. Anguillians barricaded the runway and prevented that plane from landing.
After the expulsion of the Central Government, the newly-formed Peace Keeping Committee organized and set up the Magistrate’s Court headed by Scout Master, Mr. Raphael Lake. Personnel in the other offices, as well as the police force were born Anguillians and now under local management.
According to A Handbook History of Anguilla by Colville L. Petty, this building was the site when on February 2nd, 1970, the Wooding Commission held its formal opening. Its principal recommendation was that Anguilla should remain a part of the three island state, which the majority of Anguillians totally rejected. Three days later on February 5th, over one thousand determined islanders armed with sticks, stones and pieces of iron surrounded the Court House and prevented Justice Renwick from holding Court. The people objected to the Justice because he was the resident judge in St. Kitts.
Today, on the opposite side of this building a modern two-floor complex towers over the old girl. She humbly submits to her antiquity, her cracked, old-time walls and architecture as all the younger girls around her blaze with youth and colour. Their well-manicured and landscaped premises put her expensive, stately mahogany trees to shame.
Her multiple offspring – the two-storey Police Station to the south-east, The radio station, (Radio Anguilla) and Government Headquarters to the south, Land and Survey Department to the south-west, The Caribbean Commercial Centre which houses many government offices to the west, the Post Office to the north-north-west, Social Security Complex to the north-west, Her Majesty’s Prison to the north-east, Inland Revenue, Labour and Immigration Offices close to The Courthouse to the east – surround her as more modern, complex, technical and official branches evolve.
All these, her children and grandchildren, shine bright and tower over her feeble, miniature frame while she looks on with pride and resignation. Maybe she too knows that her end is near, as there is a rumour that she will soon be abandoned and demolished. She has lived and reigned over sixty five years which is old for Government buildings on Anguilla. Many of her peers have ended up in the Coritot graveyard and I can imagine her and the ‘Old Factory’ conversing under the mahogany trees at nights recalling their extremely busy childhood days. Like a senior citizen whose fruitful youth is lost and forgotten with time, she knows her days are numbered. “I HAVE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED MY COURSE,” she acknowledges.
At present, this original Administration Building houses the Chamber of Commerce, the Sports Department and other miniscule offices. It is fair to say that it is visited by fewer Anguillians than any supermarket, business complex, church, school or other government office.
As a girl, I experienced many happy weekends visiting this building at least twice a month on Saturdays to post and receive mail and ‘packs’ for my grandmother or to pick up my secondary school term report. This building also holds some sad memories for me. As a young person, in November 1973 I was parked under a mahogany tree, waiting for a relative who had gone to register a birth, when I was told by a former Chief of Police that he had just heard on the Dutch radio station in St. Maarten that my father had died. Since letter writing has become redundant and newer offices have been built, I have not been inside that building twice in almost fifty years.
Many persons, still alive, have contributed to the functioning of both the old Crocus Hill building and this historical building. Perhaps many a memory comes to the forefront when they pass by these remaining “ancient” sanctuaries.
Luckily, when Mr. Eustace Brooks, (Rushie) was Postmaster General, the building was given recognition by placing it on the six-cent stamp of one of the earlier sets of Anguilla stamps. The old building at Crocus Hill is being renovated with the objective of having it resemble, as closely as possible, its pre-hurricane look.
Nevertheless, for us Anguillians who are pre-Revolutionaries, the original administration building is still regarded as a place of honour, a place of grace and beauty, a place of sophistication and pride but more-so a place of rich history. For many years it was the seat of power, and still is the site of one of the last and most significant aspects of the Anguilla Revolution.
Thanks to Mr. Hugo Rey, (brother of Mr. Olney Rey/ son of Mr. Wallace Rey) and Mr. Eustace Brooks, Rushie, a clerk who worked through all the ranks of the Post Office from 1958 – 1994). Both of these men who were intimately involved in the building and functioning, respectively of the above-mentioned premises gave much of the useful information mentioned herein.