Long road ahead to restore Old Prison

2017-01-18 06:02
LEFT: The Old Prison at Project Gateway burned for about 20 hours in December 2016. The building has been untouched since.PHOTO: nicole john

LEFT: The Old Prison at Project Gateway burned for about 20 hours in December 2016. The building has been untouched since.PHOTO: nicole john

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THERE is still a long road ahead for the restoration of the Old Prison at Project Gateway that went up in flames in December last year.

Speaking to Maritzburg Fever Di Milford, director of Project Gateway said that they have been unable to access the building since lightening struck it and a fire ravaged it.

“The building has been untouched since the fire. It is still unstable so we haven’t been able to get in and access the damages. Fortunately, no one was working in that building at the time and we were using it as a storage facility. Unfortunately, many items that had been donated were in the building including books, tables and chairs that were donated for the school. Until the building has been cleared we can’t assess what has been lost,” she said.

Milford explained that there would be three phases to the restoration of the building which includes appointing structural engineers to assess the damage of the building and clear up the rubble. Further to this, because the building is a historical monument, the building would need to be restored to its original state.

“The building would need to be restored as close as possible to its original state in order to ensure its authenticity. It was built in the late 1800s so rebuilding and restoring will take quite a bit of time and will be expensive,” said Milford.

The building burned for about 20 hours until fire fighters finally declared the fire out. “Gallons and gallons of water were used to put the fire out. The main problem was that the fire trucks weren’t able to gain access to the premises because of the small arches at the entrance of the property so fire fighters could only work from the outside,” she said.

Apart from donated items the building housed a time capsule that houses letters and documentation from indigent labourers on the 150th anniversary of the Indian labourers arriving in South Africa. The capsule was collated by the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee and will be opened by future generations who will have letters and documents from their ancestors about their past.

“We cannot access the room where the capsule was buried. I am hoping that if there is any damage it may just be a few dents from concrete that has fallen on it because the capsule was built to withstand fire and water,” said Milford.

Although the building has been cordoned off until it has been cleared to enter, it is business as usual at Project Gateway.

“Operations weren’t affected at the organisation and the school. The school has since opened and there are still vacancies for pupils. Fashion school interviews are currently underway and there are also vacancies there. We encourage those interested in either school to apply this year,” said Milford.

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