The changes were first made public by Newsday columnist, Marion O’ Callaghan who wrote on Monday that the trees around the house were being cut down.
Yesterday, metal scaffolding blocked the Jeffers’ verandah that faces the Oval and workers were seen painting the walls around the premises that now houses the “Olives Mediterranean Bistro.”
The workers were hesitant to give any information, but denied that any trees were cut down. They said that the project started about three weeks ago and added that they were simply told that “the new owners wanted the place painted.”
They disclaimed that changes were being made because of next week’s Cricket World Cup and could not give the name of the contractor who is in charge of the work being done.
But Flora Belle-Spielmann the great niece of Audrey Jeffers, said that when she visited the “family house” in the beginning of February, the trees which once stood in the yard had been cut down and a tall wooden structure stood in their place. According to relatives and friends, the trees were given to Audrey Jeffers by a Governor-General in the 1920’s.
Speilmann recalled climbing on the trees, and also remembered the garden parties that Jeffers’ held at the home. She said that juice was made from the guavas on the trees and the mango trees and the plum tree stood tall.
Adding significance of the trees to the family who are owners of the home, is that the ashes of Jeffers’ niece, Claudette Martin, are buried under one of the trees on August 24, 2000. However, the flower that was planted to be used as a landmark to mark the burial spot has also been cut down.
The owners of the home are upset because they were not consulted before the trees were cut, nor were they informed about the purpose of the structure.
Efforts to contact the contractor proved futile and neither the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association nor the Joint Consultative Council knows the name of the contractor.
Newsday found out that the 222 properties that are considered national treasures, do not include the Jeffers’ house. However, family members who wish to issue guardianship of the house would have to request it from the Museum.
Audrey Jeffers was a prominent social worker who established the Coterie of Social Workers, which provided lunches to school children and was the first woman to be elected to the Port-of-Spain City Council in 1936.
She served as a member of the Legislative Council for many years. The Audrey Jeffers Highway, from Wrightson Road to Cocorite is named after her.