Faded glory: Longford House was one of the most expensive homes in Bermuda when it was built in 1709. But today few passers-by pay much ­attention to the dilapidated and overgrown property. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Faded glory: Longford House was one of the most expensive homes in Bermuda when it was built in 1709. But today few passers-by pay much ­attention to the dilapidated and overgrown property. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Two of the oldest and most historic houses in St George’s could be lost forever if action is not taken to restore them.

That’s the warning from activist Rick Spurling, who has called on local and foreign investors to help bring Longford House and 11 Queen Street back to their original grandeur before it is too late.

The two iconic properties, which date back to the early 1700s when St George’s was the centre of Bermuda trade, have become crumbling ruins overgrown with vegetation in recent times.

Mr Spurling, who is chairman of the St George’s Foundation, believes there is still time to save these old relics of a bygone era.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “These are extremely valuable ruins from a historical and cultural point of view.

“If we leave them like they are then they will collapse and we will lose them forever.”

Restoration

Mr Spurling says the future of the two properties may depend on attracting a foreign investor to buy them and then fund the restoration work.

But he is also looking at ways the group’s Revolving Fund might be used to safeguard the future of the properties.

He added: “We hope to approach the current owners once we have a salvage plan in place and then work to restore the properties back to their original state. This obviously relies on the St George’s Foundation borrowing a huge amount of money or receiving a major cash donation.

“Either way it is an expensive deal.

“The other option is to look abroad for a private investor — someone who is into history and has a lot of money.

“When it comes to historical sites like these two buildings I think foreigners should be able to purchase properties and restore them so that we can safeguard the island’s heritage.

“Government would obviously have to be involved and there would have to be restrictive covenants on what could and could not be done with the property.”

The St George’s Foundation will also consider clearing out the two premises and turning them into ruins if the money to fund complete renovation work cannot be found.

He said:  “A cheaper option would be to turn these properties into designated ruins — a little bit like the Unfinished Church.

“This would require clearing out all the vegetation and rubbish that has been left and architects and engineers would have to be called in to make the area safe. Visitors could do short tours of the ruins and we could provide historical information about the buildings on boards and plaques.

“Even as renovated ruins these properties could prove very attractive. Any way you look at it we can not afford to lose these buildings and time is running out. If we do not act soon we will lose them forever.”

In his report on 11 Queen Street, prepared for the St George’s Foundation in 2010, Professor Alexandra Mairs says: “Restoration of this fascinating building will be the last and most consuming step in recovering 11 Queen Street, but certainly a worthwhile venture.

“Rescuing the house from ruin will save a fascinating building and enhance the already enchanting atmosphere of St George’s.

“Its restoration will save the home of mariners, slaves, widows, and families from further decay and destruction.”