National Trust moves into Mille Fleurs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The historic Mille Fleurs which is now the home of the National Trust. FILE PHOTO –

THE National Trust has begun to move into Mille Fleurs, one of the Magnificent Seven at the Queen’s Park Savannah, after restoration done last year on the building along with Whitehall, President’s House and the Red House.

Graeme Suite, National Trust business development and marketing co-ordinator, spoke to Newsday at a Divali open-house event at Mille Fleurs earlier this week.

“The property was symbolically handed over to the National Trust last year August. Between then and now we have been working out the details of actually moving in.
“There are two buildings on the compound. These are the heritage house which we will use for different types of private events and a short building at the back called the mews that will be the actual offices of the staff of the National Trust.”

He said to mark the occasion of moving into Mille Fleurs as its official headquarters, the trust was hosting a Divali open house for a controlled number of members of the public to visit.

“As a heritage house it belongs to the people, and we want to encourage people to experience it and appreciate it. That is how you encourage conservation.

“So for Divali we created a mini-exhibition. On display we have some artwork, including deyas decorated by children. We also have something on mehendi and some architectural spaces that speak to some of the visuals associated with Divali.”

Suite said based on an appointment system in line with covid19 limits, individuals had been invited to visit to light deyas, to observe Divali and to fellowship with the National Trust. The open house had been from on Monday for a small group of guests and then on Tuesday and Wednesday for the general public by appointment.

“Then beyond that the trust will be having other types of events here. As a heritage space it belongs to the people and we want to encourage people to treat it as theirs. It is useful for a variety of different types of activity, such as micro-weddings, dinners, meetings.

“People get a better appreciation for preserving the space if they can get use out of it and that is what we are trying to encourage as much as possible.”

Suite anticipated future events to mark occasions such as Christmas and Indian Arrival Day.

“For Christmas we’ll have carolling and maybe some dinners, because we are interested in doing some fund-raising because we want the space to operate in a self-sustaining way.

Greta McKenzie, a senior corporate communications officer with the Ministry of Planning, places lighted deyas on bamboo in the grounds of Mille Fleurs during a Divali open house on Tuesday. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI –

“We’ll encourage people to visit, but also help us contribute to fund-raising for the upkeep and maintenance of this place.”

Suite gave a historical background to the house.

“Mille Fleurs is one of the Magnificent Seven. It was built in 1904 by Victoria Prada as a gift to her husband, the first mayor of Port of Spain, Dr Enrique Prada.”

He said Mrs Prada had been a wealthy Venezuelan heiress, while her husband was a doctor in government employ.

“The house was designed by a Scottish architect who was designing in Trinidad at the time, George Brown, with a lot of the architectural features common at that time. People will immediately recognise the fretwork and those kinds of trim.

“The house was a family home.The Pradas had four children. It was also used as part of how they socialised and networked in the business and political community.

“They lived here from 1904 until about 1920, when the building was then bought over by Joseph Salvatori, of the family which owned the big Salvatori building in town. Apart from being an entrepreneur and a businessman, Joseph Salvatori also held some diplomatic postings representing some countries in TT, so the house was also used for hosting those kinds of activities.”

Suite said Mille Fleurs was then owned by the Matouk family, then by the Government and it then fell into disrepair before being restored.

“It was symbolically handed over to the trust in 2020 and now in November 2021 we are moving in.”