The restoration of the only listed National Heritage Site in Belmont, the 119-year-old St Francis of Assisi RC Church, is a commendable effort to preserve a beautiful example of this country’s built heritage for future generations.

Blessed and opened on May 25, 1902, by Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Patrick Vincent Flood, the church, located on the Belmont Circular Road, had developed structural problems over the years, including termite infestation to porous walls and was deemed unsafe more than a decade ago.

However, thanks to work that started a year ago, the historic church building will soon be available for the celebration of sacraments and other religious activities by the parishioners of Belmont and environs.

St Francis RC will not suffer the same fate as another historic church. The Greyfriars Church of Scotland, once a landmark on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, was demolished in November 2014 despite appeals and protests by conservationists and concerned citizens.

The site, a key location for the country’s anti-slavery movement, was reported to have “welcomed people of different races and religions to worship and even to get married, all at a time when interracial marriage was taboo,” according to one historical account.

But instead of being preserved as an important heritage site in the nation’s capital, it was sold to a private developer who reduced it to rubble in a matter of days. It is now a parking lot.

In 1985, another historic building, George Brown House, was saved from a similar fate.

It would have been a significant loss for the country if that building, designed, and completed by famed Scottish architect George Brown, the man responsible for much of the architecture in the Queen’s Park Savannah Heritage District, had been torn down.

Instead, it became the starting point for the country’s heritage preservation movement when concerned individuals joined forces and saved it from demolition. In recent years other national treasures which had languished for years in various stages of dilapidation have been restored, including the seat of Parliament, the Red House, President’s House, and some of the buildings that comprise the Magnificent Seven around the Queen’s Park Savannah.

However, there are still some historic buildings that are neglected and crumbling into dust. Prominent among them is The Lion House, the ancestral home of the Capildeo family, located in Chaguanas.

Designed and built by the late Pundit Capildeo in 1926, this symbol and memorial to indentured Indian immigrants was immortalised as Hanuman House in the novel A House for Mr Biswas by a grandson of Capildeo’s, Nobel laureate Sir Vidia Naipaul.

Unfortunately, that building which once stood majestically on the Chaguanas Main Road is now dilapidated, overgrown by bushes, and occupied by vagrants. Alarms have been raised more than once about its steady decline but those numerous appeals for its restoration have yielded no results.

The National Trust of T&T, the state agency responsible for the preservation of the country’s built and natural heritage, is unable to intervene because Lion House is privately owned, and permission has not been granted for its restoration. It would be unfortunate if Lion House is allowed to fade into history. Like the St Francis RC Church, it is worthy of preservation. Work should begin immediately to restore it to its former glory.