Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Haiti - National Palace

No. 39, National Palace (Palais National), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (before 12th. January 2010).

Sent by Shallale from Haiti.

This is from Wikipedia : The National Palace (Palais National) is located in Port-au-Prince—facing Place L'Ouverture near the Champs de Mars—and is the official residence of the Haitian president. It was almost completely destroyed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The building has since been slated for demolition.

A reported total of four residences built for the country's rulers, whether the colonial governor general, emperor, or president, have occupied the site since the mid to late 18th century. At one point in the site's tumultuous history, when the chief of state was without an official home due to damage, a 19th-century French-style villa on Avenue Christophe assumed that role.

The earliest structure was the Government Palace (Palais du Gouvernement), which was constructed in the 18th century as the residence of the French governor general of Saint-Domingue. Its first Haitian inhabitant was the country's first president, the Franco-Haitian mulatto General Alexandre Pétion. The structure was deemed "nothing less than a palace", made of painted wood, with "a handsome flight of steps leading into good reception-rooms". A visitor in 1831 noted the building was "large and convenient, but not handsome. It is of one story, and situated in front of the parade, to the southeast of the town. Its entrance is up a fine flight of steps, leading through a spacious portico into the hall of audience. The floors of all the public rooms are of black and white marble. The furniture is tasteful and elegant, but not costly. This building ... was constructed with more attention to convenience than effect. The apartments are pleasantly cool". In front of the palace stood the marble tomb of President Pétion and one of his daughters.

By 1850 the former governor general's residence had become known as the Imperial Palace, since it was the residence of Emperor Faustin I of Haiti and his wife, Empress Adélina. John Bigelow, an editor at the New York Evening Post, visited the palace in 1850 and described it as "only one story, raised a few feet from the ground, and approached by four or five steps, which extend all around the edifice." He also noted aspects of the interior decoration: "The floor [of one waiting room] is white marble, the furniture in black hair-cloth and straw. On a richly carved table appeared a beautiful bronze clock, representing the arms of Haiti—namely, a palm-tree surrounded with fascines of pikes and surmounted with the Phrygian cap. The walls were decorated with two fine portraits ... One represents the celebrated French conventionist, the Abbé Grégoire, and the other the reigning Emperor of Haiti .... The latter does honor to the talent of a mulatto artist, the Baron Colbert." An adjoining salon, where "grand receptions are given," displayed "portraits of all the great men of Haiti".

The former Imperial Palace was destroyed on 19 December 1869 during a rebel revolt that brought down the government of President Sylvain Salnave. The building was bombarded during the conflict by the man-of-war La Terreur, a government warship that had been captured by the rebel forces. As a contemporary report stated, "It appeared that Salnave had stowed away in vaults at the Palace a large quantity of ammunition. The shells fired from the Terreur, penetrating these vaults, caused several terrific explosions, and the palace was wholly destroyed". Per two such incidents, history, an observer noted, had shown "the President had been unable to trust anyone with the keeping of the national supply of ammunition and was forced to keep it in his own palace, so that in both cases the Presidents were killed by means of their own powder".

The palace's replacement, built in 1881, was seriously damaged on 8 August 1912 by a violent explosion that killed President Cincinnatus Leconte and several hundred of his soldiers almost a year to the day from Leconte's election. The National Geographic Magazine called the palace "a rather ugly structure of glistening gray white, with apparently a good deal of corrugated iron about it," though adding that it "contained, however, some fine lofty rooms". Others called it "a low straggling house" whose rooms were "pretty and decorated à la française".

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