The history of the Trinidad Country Club extends far into the colonial past. It is likely that the land where the building now stands was, in Spanish times, referred to as St. Xavier and owned by Dons Miguel and Francesco Lezama. It was later purchased by Philippe Rose Roume de Saint-Laurent, for his mother, Rosa, in 1782.
Saint-Laurent was instructive in the scheme to populate Trinidad to further the island’s economic potential. He also saw Trinidad as an opportunity for new beginnings for his mother, Rosa, who had fallen into debt and lost her family plantation in Grenada. Thus, Saint-Laurent had purchased the small estate (22.4 acres of land) three months before his mother immigrated to Trinidad.
Rosa settled on the island bringing with her 75 enslaved Africans. In 1782, she applied to the governor for more lands comprising all of lower Maraval. Under the terms of Article III of the cedula, she was granted thirty-two acres for every enslaved person in her possession. She also bought the neighbouring La Prudence estate (37 acres) that same year. Collectively, she called these lands, as well as lands which she later obtained–about 927 acres in total–Les Champs Élysées.
She and her son from her second marriage, Francois, co-ran an initially successful sugarcane plantation which they diversified as the years went by. Due to debts accrued from fluctuating fortunes, some lands were sold to two younger half-brothers in 1793. Rosa died a few years later and was laid to rest in the garden not far from the great house (ostensibly on the same spot that Trinidad Country Club was built).
Throughout the years, Les Champs Élysées continued to be subdivided through inheritance and sale. A substantial portion of lands came into the hands of the de Gannes and later the de Boissière family. The Great House, known today as Trinidad Country Club, was rebuilt three times; on the last occasion, circa 1870, stone was quarried on the estate to construct the building. At that time, the venue was used as a retreat for visiting royalty as well as for the crème de la crème of local society to fraternise, play sports, and enjoy tea parties. These activities continued into the 20th century.
The house and the 12 acres that surrounded it were sold in 1932 to Huggins and Company, owners of the Queen’s Park Hotel, for the use of its hotel guests. Structural changes and additions were made to transform the original Great House into a club. Thus, a large dance hall, tennis courts and a swimming pool were added, and the two turrets, which provided an air-cooling system, were removed in the 1940s.
In 1953, the Queen’s Park Hotel and Trinidad Country Club were acquired by J.B. Fernandes and continued to be used as an exclusive getaway into the 21st century. The exclusivity of the club came under heavy attack from the 1950s by Dr. Eric Williams and others who sought to expose inequities in the country when campaigning for Independence. This criticism persisted into the 21st century although there seemed to be an attempt by management to change the negative image of the club by hosting a wider range of events.
Today, the Trinidad Country Club is now defunct and is a shell of what it used to be. Nevertheless, its history continues to provide an intimate look into the colonial and postcolonial past of the country.
Address: Champs Elysees, 137 Long Circular Road
Region: Port of Spain
Site Type: Cultural Heritage
Public Accessibility: Limited Access
Site Features: Private Buildings
Champs Elysees, 137 Long Circular Road, Maraval, Port of Spain