Historically the Old Factory served as the island’s only cotton processing facility and as Anguilla’s first general store—in fact it was (according to eminent historian Colville Petty) “once the center of gravity of Anguilla’s commercial life, which opened for business in the first decade of the 1900’s”. However the Old Factory’s most recent uses over the past decade were much less dramatic, much less pivotal, operating as a furniture store, a warehouse, a paint store and a fried chicken joint–with all those businesses and services gradually moving or dissolving so that the building fell into complete disuse…whereby it remained abandoned throughout the Anguilla boom years of 2004 thru 2007. Enter 2008.
I needed more space to accommodate growing business demands—my Xerox distributorship was expanding, my FedEx center was handling an ever increasing number of packages, my business center was copying and printing and laminating a multitude of documents and building plans, my corporate management section needed additional staff to handle an increasing volume of offshore company incorporations and trademark registrations, whereby my real estate office couldn’t accommodate more than two clients at any one time so that I had to steal chairs from my staff to squeeze a third or fourth real estate client into my real estate office. Enter the Old Factory.
As Anguilla’s economy expanded in the boom years with the explosion of interest in real estate leading the charge, I affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty to market property on island—and although my offices at the time were deemed adequate, I realized that adequacy was temporary at best…as such, I began to look for a suitable facility to expand. Insofar as I knew the fellow who held the master lease on the Old Factory and insofar as I was very friendly with the owner of the building, negotiations began for me to assume the lease and begin to bring the building back from the brink.
Negotiations took about one month to complete, giving me control of the site in August of 2008—whereby work began the first week of August…amazing but true, construction work was undertaken during Carnival. The initial work focused on the exteriors of the two separate buildings I now controlled—with the first phase of exterior work being to lay a new galvanized roof over the rusted and leaking galvanized roof of the small Stand Alone Building that had most recently housed the paint store, with the second phase of exterior work being to build a new galvanized hip roof over the Concrete Addition that was added to the Old Factory years after its original construction so that the Concrete Addition took on a West Indian design sympathetic to the adjacent historic structure…happily the roof over the main section of the Old Factory itself was in fine condition and didn’t need replacing. Once my new roofs were in place, the buildings were painted in soft Caribbean pastels. Enter the Main Hall.
Having improved the exteriors so that the buildings presented a viable face to the public, the next move was to improve the interiors to ensure the new façade was more than cosmetic—to that end, the Main Hall was the first area of focus. Grease laden tiles were ripped from the walls and floors, caked dirt was scrubbed from the ceilings, dysfunctional restaurant and kitchen equipment was dismantled and trucked away, exposed wiring was pulled off rafters and beams—then floors were repaired and carpet laid, walls were rebuilt in their original wooden context, the ceilings were repainted and renovated, furniture was delivered with all office desks being hand made on island, new wiring and air conditioning systems were installed…the result being a comfortable executive office with a mahogany conference table and flat screen monitor for private real estate showings, an administrative assistant’s station with bamboo furniture to create a sense of privacy for the executive office, four realtor stations divided by mahogany and glass partitions creating separate areas within a sense of openness, and a partially partitioned viewing area featuring a second flat screen monitor where the realtors on duty can review offerings with interested clients. Enter the Stone Cellar.
Having conquered the main hall the next step was to make the Stone Cellar (a very unique structure on Anguilla) usable–from the inception it was my vision to add an art gallery to my real estate offices to maximize the synergy between art and real estate, as embodied in the Sotheby’s concept of developing their real estate services in alignment with their the art expertise. The main challenge of the Stone Cellar appeared to be getting rid of the two inches of muddy water on the floor—however getting rid of that water was in fact quite easy… keeping the cellar dry was another matter all together. After failed attempts at sealing the cellar by changing door and window configurations, I ensured I was down there whenever it rained hoping to see where the water was seeping in—during one exceptionally heavy rain, I saw water actually coming though the walls…not an encouraging sign for an art gallery. Happily the cure wasn’t nearly as traumatic as one might imagine as I was able to isolate the above ground seepage points and cover them with concrete (yes, that grey sludge does have some value, even in historic renovations) whereby the Stone Cellar is now perfectly dry and a perfect Anguilla home for artist in residence, Sir Roland Richardson—the Caribbean’s premier impressionist. Enter the Concrete Addition.
Having put the Main Hall and Stone Cellar into usable condition, the next challenge was to integrate the Concrete Addition that was added to the Old Factory some years ago. Prior to the economic turmoil of 2008, there were numerous large scale developments being marketed on island–as such, the idea evolved to create marketing spaces for those developers so that potential purchasers could get an overview of each offering in one central location. With that concept in mind I subdivided the space to create ten marketing suites—each one defined by handsome solid wood walls to integrate the look of the Concrete Addition to the adjoining Main Hall. However, by the time I finished the marketing suites all of the large scale managed communities had stopped marketing and had become comatose—thankfully the marketing suites themselves were attractive enough and spaced appropriately for me to convert them into an Art Annex…whereby each suite now features the work of a single artist, both local and international. Enter the Stand Alone Building.
From the beginning, I envisioned the Stand Alone Building being developed into a coffee house or café—however I have never made money (in fact I have always lost money) in the food and beverage business…as such I partnered with a successful local restaurateur and his French chef whereby they created The Valley Bistro, a successful breakfast / lunch / tapas eatery catering to both on island residents and tourists. Creatively, the open deck space between the small Stand Alone Building and the Old Factory has been roofed over to establish a West Indian dining atmosphere with beautiful views of the Catholic Church in the near distance. Experience the Resurrection.
The Old Factory Complex is now once again a center of importance in the heart of The Valley. With beautiful real estate offices showcasing the island’s finest real estate offerings, with fine art displayed in an historic Stone Cellar and a lovely Art Annex, with a Caribbean themed dining environment serving throughout the day, the Old Factory Complex has proven that old can be beautiful—and useful…and worthy of respect.