Saturday, August 24, 2013

Last Days Of The Coo Coo Cafe

The Coo Coo Cafe is marked by the MPW for destruction in order to expand the sides of the road from Monrovia to Gbarnga


I remember traveling the road to Buchanan in 2011 and I kept seeing all of these yellow marks on the buildings as we drove by, which naturally led me to ask, "What do those yellow marks mean?"    

The Yellow 'X' on the Coo Coo Cafe signals her last days

In short, it means that those structures are marked for destruction so that roads can be built.  In practice it means that the MPW (Ministry of Public Works) goes around and decides how much money a person will get for the building they are about to destroy and then spray paints it with a yellow mark.  Many churches, homes, businesses, structures, etc. have met their fate due to the notorious yellow X. 

Across the street from the Cafe one can see the yellow 'x's on the gate and fence in front of the Coo Coo Nest Hotel

Liberian Historic Sites Marked For Destruction

I was saddened to learn that the Coo Coo Cafe and some of its surrounding structures were also marked by the MPW for destruction.  This is an area of great historical significance to Liberia as it represents the glory days of the Tubman era.  In this spot just south of Totota President Tubman had his 6,000 acre rubber tree farm, his getaway mansion, a hotel named after his daughter which was called the Coo Coo Nest, and this restaurant: The Coo Coo Cafe.

The Coo Coo Nest Fountain and Tower are also marked
the dreaded yellow 'x'
Besides the Coo Coo Cafe, several other Tubman era structures are also marked for destruction.  This includes the fence and gate to the Coo Coo Nest, the tower sculpture and fountain in front of the Coo Coo Nest (which was sculpted by Tubman's son), and the Elephant Tusk Gate and guard house that leads up to the mansion and the one-time zoo that I visited as a child.  I overheard that the total payout by the MPW appraisers for all of these structures is $300,000 USD.  I doubt it will go to revitalize what is left of this beautiful property, but who knows? 

Me standing by the yellow 'x' on the Elephant Tusk Gate that leads to the Tubman Mansion and abandoned zoo.
The Guard House behind is also marked for destruction

Has Liberia Spoken on the Tubman Legacy?

It might seem that Liberia has spoken about how she feels about president Tubman.  Several of his magnificent structures are today in disarray.  His Center for African Culture in Robertsport was in shambles when I visited it in 2011.  I have no idea how bad it looks now.  His zoo was looted and/or shipped out of country to the Ivory Coast.  His mansion lies vacant and is a home to thieves, rotting taxidermy, and bats.  And lastly his 'eternal' flame on his grave has long since been extinguished.     

This picture shows the entire Elephant Tusk Gate in her last days. June 2013

However, an opposing case could be made that Liberia loves Tubman in that they commemorate him on their $20LD bill, they have a High School named after him in Monrovia, and a University in Harper.  Whatever the case, he was a powerful force that one is unable to ignore when studying Liberia's history and even current events.  Tubman may have left his mark, but today many of his structures find themselves marked for destruction.

The old metal Buchanan Welcome Sign was also removed when the road to Buchanan was paved.
Some say it will return but time will tell.  Picture taken in 2011

In summary, that road I mentioned from Monrovia to Buchanan is now completely paved and the travel time is even comparable to US standards!  (As a side: I hope that the road lasts through this rainy season as there was water just feet from it at the beginning of the season in June and I saw no drainage system.  It was lowest bidder, Chinese construction from what I've been told.)  Now it is the road from Monrovia to Gbarnga that is underway.  Liberia seems to be saying, "full steam ahead!" and also that some of her past is something she would rather just pave over.  

On the road to Gbarnga June 2013


  1. Almost all of the MPW "X" marks that I have seen are on buildings that were constructed within the right-of-way (75 feet either side of the highway center line). Some people were ignorant and/or gullible and bought deeds for land that lay within the right of way, others just gambled that they could build and stay long enough to make it worthwhile.

    I'm surprised that MPW is paying any of those people anything at all; if you lie down on the highway, should you complain when a Mack truck hits you? Unfortunately for most of them they didn't know that the road carried Mack trucks.

    1. What city in Liberia is best for ex-pats to retire ?

      Morris P. Roberts