Haiti's Gingerbread Houses To Become A Cultural Heritage District
Haiti, known for its French colonial houses, has been harboring an unusual architectural treasure, Gingerbread houses. A fusion of styles, derived from homes built in the American South and modified for climate conditions in Haiti, they have resisted hurricanes and tremblers. In 2010, Haiti's earthquake turned buildings in Port-au-Prince into masses of rubble. But a 125-year old Gingerbread house in the capital survived the quake virtually unharmed. Spearheading a project to restore Gingerbread houses, and make them into retail establishments, is the partnership of the French Institute in Haiti and the Knowledge and Freedom Foundation (FOKAL).
The Bois-Verna neighborhood in Port-au-Prince holds 200 Gingerbread houses. They are called such due to ornate latticework, winding around the circumference of the structures' features. Gingerbread houses can endure Haiti's torrid weather. Tall ceilings and turrets direct stagnant hot air upwards, and windows surrounding the house produce a cooling breeze.
To make Gingerbreads a tourist attraction, Lorraine Mangonès, FOKAL Executive Director, and Gingerbread Project Manager, Farah Hyppolite, want to turn the quasi-Victorian structures into a cultural heritage district. To renovate the venerable houses will cost somewhere between $5 MM to $10 MM. But Haitian law does not state Gingerbreads can be registered in a national registry. What this means is an owner can put the house up for sale or raze it.
But FOKAL is pushing to convert Gingerbread Mile into a cultural and tourist attraction. They estimate they can accomplish enough work in five years to build momentum and attract private investment.
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