Last call for the Clayhouse Inn

  • Set for demolition: the Clayhouse Inn, bought by the late Choy Aming Sr in 1967, has fallen into disrepair (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
  • Sun sets on the Clayhouse: the ruined Clayhouse Inn last night showing the latest damage from Hurricane Humberto (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

An historic entertainment hall on the North Shore, which crumbled to an eyesore after a fire almost 18 years ago, faces demolition.

The Clayhouse Inn in Devonshire became a top venue after the late Choy Aming Sr leased it 1967, but it was shuttered after the blaze in January 2002.

Plans were announced in 2009 and 2015 to replace the dilapidated establishment, but now a roadside banner declares simply “Demolition Site”.

For its neighbours on Foothills Road, the news could not come soon enough.

A female resident of 54 years said fragments of the building had toppled into North Shore Road during Hurricane Humberto last month.

She added: “It will a blessing to be rid of it. And it will be a relief when we have storms. I always think the roof will come off and blow this way.

“But it has so many holes, a lot of the wind just howls around and escapes. It’s like the adage about leaving a window open in the lee.”

In its heyday, the Clayhouse was just “part of the view”, she said.

“It was well maintained. It had a bit of a nuisance factor with noise and traffic, but Choy Aming was accommodating and empathetic towards neighbours if we made a complaint.”

She said: “It’s awful now. Believe it or not, it looks worse from the water. It will be a pleasure to have it down, even if it’s an open lot.”

Ten years ago, Clayhouse Renaissance Ltd pitched ambitious proposals to build a four-storey apartment block on the site with a two-storey commercial building and a restaurant and offices.

The woman said: “They had plans for a massive building. I don’t know if that was a pipe dream. That would change my view as well.”

To the west, a senior resident, who said she had lived there ever since Mr Aming’s establishment started up, remembered the days of regular shows there.

She said: “It’s going to fall down, so they have got to do something.

“It would be nice if they put something back there. It’s an eyesore.”

Farther up the hill, a 65-year-old woman said she had lived in the house there since she was two.

She recalled her mother boarding the 1950s American duo The Miller Sisters when they visited the island.

She said: “We used to hear all the music up here. They had magic shows and ventriloquism acts.”

But she said neighbours had vigorously opposed the 2009 development plans, including petitioning the property owners.

She added: “We thought it was going to come down when they first put the fencing up. But it’s been like that ever since.

“I thought the last hurricane might knock it down. There are trees growing through the roof. I just hope when they do knock it down, the rats don’t come up here.”

Dale Butler, a former Progressive Labour Party minister and music historian, said Mr Aming had made the Clayhouse “first class”.

Mr Butler said: “He packed it with international stars and brought in the passengers off the cruise ships in Hamilton. He was ahead of his time.

“It’s a pity. It’s like the Canadian Hotel and many other buildings around, that the families who own them simply cannot afford to sustain.”

Carnival dancers, the “Not the Um Um Show”, novelty acts and international artists from Ziggy Marley to Roberta Flack performed at the Clayhouse.

Mr Aming recalled for The Royal Gazette in 2001: “I looked at the Clayhouse and I looked around Hamilton and I saw there were 14 nightclubs which were all full, with lines outside waiting to get in. Every hotel had a nightclub too. I said, this is the place for me.”

Clayhouse Renaissance Ltd could not be reached yesterday for comment.