A pity, that the once imposing residence known as Vale Royal The supposed official residence of the Prime Minister of Jamaica,, has been so neglected by this Prime Minister, it is now an eyesore, to its neighbours and those who commute through the neighbourhood, and have to contend with what was once a glorious building, now on the verge of entering a phase of dereliction, due to its neglect and the lack of vision to put it to official use, to reflect its history and architectural heritage.
Built by one of the richest planters in Jamaica, Sir Simon Taylor, at the time in the neighbourhood known as Prospect Pen, it was bought by the Jamaican Government in 1928 to house the British Colonial Secretary Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs. But was later refurbished to become the residence of Jamaica’s first Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante in 1962. But was considered too small (Not sure by whom) and was instead assigned to the Minister of Finance.
Prime Minister Seaga, was the last Prime Minister, to reside there, as the Four Prime Ministers who succeeded him, Prime Ministers: Michael Manley, PJ Patterson, Portia Simpson-Miller, and Bruce Golding, did not make it their official residence – but all four invariably used it for Official functions over the years, and thus, kept it habitable, with Mrs. Simpson-Miller, realizing the value and import of the property, appointed a Property and Protocol Manager, during her Tenure, and used it with regularity to hosts visiting heads and receptions.
Today, Vale Royal is a shadow of its former stately self, standing on the brink of dereliction, as since taking up the reins of Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has practically ignored Vale Royal, to the point that it is now a shabby little rat-infested old house, with boarded-up windows, and a drag on the neighbourhood, with its stately homes and regal lawns and gardens.
It has been reported that it is being used as a storage facility, by someone high-up in the administration, who used the Heritage sight, to store food items and other perishables, in the fragile building, further compromising its structure, with weevil infestation and other bugs.
Now, this is a far cry from Vale Royal in its heydays, when it hosted world leaders, dignitaries, and international gadabouts, and was busy during cocktail hours at sixes and nines, with the rich and famous.
Separate and apart from its time as a social marker and home to glamour, Vale Royal has its own social history, as it was rumoured that at least one Prime Minister, used it as his ‘love-nest’; there were reported sightings of ghosts; and there was talk of paranormal activities being a regular occurrence, back in the day, which to this day, scares some of those who experienced the activities
Its colorful side-history aside, there’s no reason for the central plank of Jamaica’s early history, to be so neglected, that it is close to ruination. To date, there have been a number of attempts to intervene, as concerned Jamaicans have sought to lobby the Prime Minister and Government to Put Vale Royal to Official use, to help to stave off the decay that is occasioned by it being underutilized, but to date, no luck.
Suggestions such as designating the entire Vale Royal property, A Prime Ministerial Library Compound, housing the Works (Writings); Recorded speeches; Videos; Books, etc. of Prime Ministers, beginning with Premier Norman Manley, have been advanced; but seem to have fallen on deaf ears. There was also the suggestion of donating it to the University of the West Indies, for its up-keep, with the suggestion that the earlier recommendation that it be used as a Library for the works of Jamaican Prime Ministers; Premier Norman Manley, And our National Heroes; be widened to include Prime Ministers from the region, especially from the historic era, who supported and or opposed the West Indies Federation, for posterity, but that too gained no traction.
So here we are, presiding over the decay and wastage of another National Treasure, because of the absence of a national vision to monetize and or capitalize on our own history, as others do with theirs.
The property, it is argued sits smack in the middle of a prized residential community, commonly referred to as the Golden Triangle, and is within 7 To 10 Minutes of every major commercial, educational, and residential centre. And because of its proximity, should be commissioned as an educational centre/museum, to enrich the city, by showcasing its documented history, armed with the potential to unearth and or restore, that which has been subsumed…But rotting away, should not be considered an option.