Beirut: Hisham Jaroudi, a real-estate magnate had promised to save a 100-year building in Beirut, popularly known as “The Rose House” on account of its rose-coloured paint, instead of dismantling it and replacing it with yet another high-rise. Few believed Jaroudi, the owner of the Riyadi Basketball Club, though he surprised naysayers when he applied for a renovation permit.
Spread over 2,800 square metres at the end of Bliss Street near the American University of Beirut, Rose House was first erected in 1880 by Mohammad Ardati at a time when Beirut was a small coastal town with few majestic edifices. Among its unique features are 5 metres tall sandstone vaults, with an added floor and a half that offers a 360 degree panorama over the sea and the mountains.
The traditional house is fairly large, with an approximately 850 square metres habitable section, and comes with a two-level garden as well as a swimming pool that, a century ago, was rare. Since 1964, the house served as a residence to Margot Al Khazen and her family, though Jaroudi purchased it in 2014 with the intention to demolish and replace it with a high-rise, characteristic of the neighbourhood.
By universal acknowledgement, the house is in very poor condition, with part of the third floor balcony collapsed on the one below, while most reinforcements are seriously damaged. Fastenings of the shutters and doors are so spoilt that bursts are visible in the stone, with just about every window and door wrecked, though a miraculous exception is visible for the coloured stained-glass windows in the central hall that are almost intact.
Jaroudi hired a renowned architect, Jacques Abou Khaled, to restore the house, who promised to put-up “a complete support with scaffolding, pending the city restoration permit”. It might take a while and cost a pretty penny, but against the odds of voracious appetites of brick-and mortar Lebanese builders who seldom worry about the past, Rose House will survive even if few such edifices usually make it.