PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - The Presidency informed the public on Tuesday that the reconstruction of the National Palace, destroyed in the January 12 earthquake, would begin on Wednesday morning.
Dramatic video as quake struck Haitian National Palace
The National Palace invited journalists to attend the announcement and commencement of reconstruction activities for coverage for the population.
The National Palace (Palais National) is located in Port-au-Prince—facing Place L'Ouverture near the Champs de Mars—and is the official residence of the Haitian president.
The National Palace was designed in 1912 by Georges H. Baussan (1874–1958), a leading Haitian architect who graduated from the Ecole d'Architecture in Paris and whose commissions included the City Hall of Port-au-Prince and Haiti's Supreme Court Building.
Baussan's classical design was chosen from a range of plans submitted by Haitian and French architects in a national competition in 1912, His entry was awarded the second-place prize but also was selected to be the new National Palace, for financial reasons—the structure proposed by the first-place winner was deemed too costly.
The construction budget for the new palace was set at $350,000 and work began in May 1914. By 1915, however, the under-construction palace was set ablaze by a mob that ousted and assassinated President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. A contemporary news report stated the palace "has been partially destroyed after an early-morning attack which lasted several hours".
After President Sam's death the country was occupied by the United States, with American forces taking possession of the palace and U.S. naval engineers overseeing its completion. The building was finished in 1920.
John Dryden Kuser, a wealthy American who visited Haiti in January 1920, described the new National Palace as
"a huge structure, quite like a palace in appearance .... It is more than twice the size of our White House and is shaped like the letter E, with the three wings running back from the front. In the main hall huge columns rise to the ceiling and at each side a staircase winds up to the second floor."
The primary rooms, Kuser noted, including the office of the president, were all about 40 feet square.
Like other public buildings in Haiti, Baussan's National Palace drew on the tradition of French Renaissance architecture and greatly resembled structures erected in France and its colonial territories during the late 19th century, such as Norodom Palace, the residence of the French governor general of Cochinchina. Made of white-painted reinforced concrete, the two-story National Palace had a central section featuring a domed entrance pavilion whose four Ionic columns supported a pedimented portico; at either end of the main façade were matching domed pavilions, also groined. The presidents and their families lived in the south wing of the building.