The iconic Haitian presidential palace, the National Palace, once the most imposing building located in the Haitian capital is to be demolished. The imposing white palace, the home of Haitian presidents, designed in 1912 and completed in 1920 was severely destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. At that time it was occupied by former President Renee Preval and his family, who escaped injury.
The demolition of the palace is to be undertaken by a non-profit organization, J/PHRO established by American actor Sean Penn, regarded as an unofficial Ambassador-at-Large for Haiti, after the earthquake to assist Haitians recover. According to reports, the demolition process is to commence in approximately two weeks, and should take two months to be completed, subject to weather conditions. J/PHRO is meeting the full cost for the demolition work; however the cost was not disclosed.
The palace, besides being the official resident of Haitian presidents, also held several government offices, and was the formal meeting place for the president and other Haitian officials to meet with official foreign delegations. The quake left the building in broken shambles, with its white dome fallen within the structure, and was an dramatic symbol of the severe devastation that Port-au-Prince experienced from the quake.
The palace's destruction forced government officials to conduct day-to-day operations from pre-fabricated buildings that were established on the grounds of the National Palace.
Penn is hoping that the demolition of the damaged building will mark a turning point for Haiti as he works with the government and a department in charge of preserving historical monuments.
Haitians in Port-au-Prince said they are pleased to learn of the demolition. A business woman said each time she passed the damaged palace it rekindled the "awful memories of the earthquake, and the rampant damage and cruel loss of life." A government minister said. "While it will be painful to see the historical palace demolished, it will be less painful to see the damaged structure every day."
It is expected that the demolition process will provide several jobs for unemployed Haitians. It's been reported J/P HRO currently employs more than 300 Haitians full-time and sometimes up to 700 additional people on specific projects.
No plans have been announced if another palace will be rebuilt on the location, or what use will be made of the site following the demolition. It was reported that after the earthquake, the French government had proposed rebuilding, but no follow up ensued.