PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — George Corvington, a prominent Haitian historian best known for his exhaustive study of the Caribbean nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, died Wednesday at age 88, a close friend said.
Fellow historian and longtime friend Georges Michel said that Corvington died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the capital he wrote so much about. Michel said Covington had recently spent a few weeks in the hospital and the cause of death was heart failure.
"He's a giant that has fallen," said Michel, who is also a physician. "He was the greatest living Haitian historian."
The office of President Michel Martelly said that with Covington's passing the country had lost a "treasure of inestimable value." It said his history of Port-au-Prince "traced with astonishing accuracy the history of our capital over several decades."
Georges Michel said that his friend's eight-volume, French-language "Port-au-Prince Through the Ages" chronicled the political and social history of Port-au-Prince, from its founding under French colonial rule in 1749 to the departure of President Paul Magloire in 1956.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Corvington began writing in the 1970s, collecting thousands of books that eventually formed a seemingly unmatched library collection. In addition to his work about the capital, a hilly coastal city that eventually swelled to an estimated 3 million people, Corvington also wrote about the National Palace and National Cathedral, iconic buildings that were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince.
Corvington himself narrowly survived the earthquake that toppled thousands of shoddily made buildings. When the disaster struck in the late afternoon on Jan. 12, 2010, Corvington was trapped under the debris of his home for about an hour before neighbors rescued him. He was not injured.
After the quake, the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO issued a call to protect Haitian artifacts from being pillaged from the country's destroyed historical sites, and helped Corvington salvage his own archives.
He was never married. Details about his survivors were not immediately available.