Frederick Street looking towards Broadway (c.1920)


Trinidad and Tobago, Then and Now

Being exposed to old images of the past from “Throw Back Thursdays” postings on social media and soon realised that I suffer from a forced amnesia of my own visual and oral history. Taking for granted how much of my own surroundings has changed just in the last century alone. This began my quest of searching for old images of Trinidad and Tobago and uncovering the past along the way.

This series will be focused on familiar places in Trinidad and Tobago like Port of Spain and other major towns. Most of the archival images were obtained from digital collections in the UWI Alma Jordon Librarythe Library of Congress in the United StatesThe National Archives of the United Kingdom and other smaller collections.

Photography provides the perfect context to observe these changes of the past and is on par to time travelling when comparing it to present day images. Taking in the quote from the artist Olafur Eliasson, Port of Spain is on a trajectory of de-colonisation as many of the old buildings with European influences are either gone or are disappearing. Many former ornate structures decorated with cast iron details are being replaced by plain glass and concrete structures or are simply empty lots.

One memorable moment captured by a photographer shows the existence of the St. Clair Electric Tram ferrying passengers through Frederick Street, offering them a view of shopping establishments designed by George Brown and catching a glimpse of the Old Town Hall of Spanish origins last seen in 1948 due to a fire. Without the constant exercise of documenting our surroundings these memories will fade into oblivion.

There are photographers who are capturing the essence of the local landscape through their own lenses. Their focus is on the simple beauty of these forgotten structures and/or capturing the dynamic rhythms of their surroundings. Either way they are providing a great insight into our own lives and preserving a moment in time that will change in the future. Some of the photographers who are doing this are Marlon JamesSam Bayne, Kibwe Brathwaite and Shaun Rambaran.

At the moment the city of Port of Spain is trying to preserve its own identity with the restoration of the Old Public Library, the Red House and the establishment of the Woodford Square Heritage District by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. However with the recent destruction of Greyfriars Church, a lot more effort must be put in place by the Port of Spain City Corporation to revitalise the city and ensure that these last remnants of our past will continue to prosper.


Frederick Street looking towards Woodford Square (Brunswick Square) (c.1920)


Frederick Street with Woodford Square (Brunswick Square) on the left (c.1920)


Frederick Street and Queens Street Intersection (c.1940)


Frederick Street from Independence Square (Marine Square) (c.1930)


Rare image showing the Old Public Library and the Old Town Hall on Knox Street (c.1920)


South of Charlotte Street (c.1956)


St. Vincent Street and Independent Square (Marine Square) Intersection (C.1940)


Chacon Street looking towards the Holy Trinity Cathedral on Queen Street (c.1920)