Why can’t Caymanian architecture be preserved?

| 24/04/2018 | 12 Comments

wattle-and-daub, Ask Auntie, CNS Local LifeI’m new to the island and have been intrigued by the traditional Cayman houses since I saw the wattle-and-daub display at the museum when I first arrived. I don’t see too many around so I was surprised to see one being demolished at the corner of Hospital Road and Elgin Avenue in December. As I walk around downtown I see a few more that look like they are also at risk of demolition. Would it be possible to move them elsewhere and re-use them as homes or B&Bs rather than demolish them? Seems a waste of history and materials.


Auntie’s answer: I share your concern; I am always saddened to see Caymanian cottages destroyed in the name of development. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is mandated to protect and preserve both the history and the biodiversity of these islands. Unfortunately, though, the non-profit organisation is not made of money or it could simply purchase all the historically significant structures in Cayman and conserve them for all to enjoy.

As with many things, the issue is tied to legislation and funding. A Trust official explained that they can only preserve properties owned and managed by the organisation. The sad truth is: “As a not-for-profit NGO with limited resources, the National Trust is unable to save each and every site slated for development.

In addition, the official said, “One of the challenges in preserving historic sites is that when they are threatened, there is not the necessary legal protection and legislation in place to allow them to be saved. The government must look to implement a national heritage preservation plan that sets out the measures and resources needed to protect our historic sites.”

The official also took the opportunity to ask for help. Stressing that the Trust is “dedicated to educating the Caymanian community about the significance of our heritage”, the organisation is always looking for new members who can volunteer to support Trust initiatives.

To contact the Trust, call 749-1121 or email info@nationaltrust.org.ky.

National Trust for the Cayman Islands website

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Comments (12)

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  1. John Lin says:

    This is a hard one as it implies that a property owners rights are less important than the “public good” of the wooden shack they own being left as it is.

    These wattle and daub houses were built that way as they were the available building materials at that time. They are a reminder of the times when the Cayman Islands were desperately poor.

    Should some be preserved? Certainly. Provided the owners receive full compensation for the full market value of that property as a development site.

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  2. Rodney Barnett says:

    One way to handle this would be to place a 1/4% fee on all new commercial building permits in the Cayman Islands specifically (and exclusively) for the purchase, restoration and preservation of Cayman’s historic structures and places. Funds would go to a special trust, co-managed by the government and the National Trust.

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  3. Whatcha Say says:

    Government was all ready to demolish the old Whitehall Bay building (Catboat Clubhouse) until someone intervened and revealed that the building was a registered historic landmark!

    The building was insured by government but it took private money, mostly form the Dart Organisation to preserve and protect it. Government used insurance money for other “more worthwhile” projects. What is more worthwhile than preserving National Heritage sites? The original building was wattle and daub, and that aspect has been preserved while strengthening the structure to meet modern codes.

    The location was originally one of the “careening places” where ships were either launched or dry docked to clean the hulls. It would have been a national outrage if that building had been demolished. Say what you will about Dart, but that organisation’s heart was in the right place in this debacle!

    More needs to be done to preserve and protect the numerous old Cayman cottages that I see lying in ruin some 14 years after IVAN. One is near the airport runway close to the Crighton Buildings and is badly in need of restoration and preservation. There are so many others, especially in Bodden Town that are lying in ruins and exposed to the ravages of the weather, instead of being restored and preserved as the national treasures they are. The character and charm of Cayman’s cultural past is being wasted away by sad neglect. It’s still not too late to right the “good ship Cayman!”

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  4. annonymous says:

    this wanton destruction of everything we held dear (plants, trees, buildings etc.) is nothing short of a national disgrace.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Bermuda cares about its local charm. Pastel Bermuda cottages are often regarded as a hallmark of the island.
    Everything goes here. High-rise buildings would destroy Caymanian charm forever.

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  6. West Bay Premier says:

    I really appreciate your thoughts on the issue of historical structures of the Cayman Islands .
    I believe that if the Government don’t come to their senses and realize that there’s other important things that need to be looked after , all we are going to have is all concrete to see .

    Just like wildlife of the Islands, back in the 60’s Cayman had many different species birds , today all we have are iguanas and they are being left alone to multiply and take over the Island .

    I think that we need a new Government with a more conservation environmental minds about them for the protection of these things. If not everything is going to be gone in the near future .

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  7. Al Carraz says:

    It took me a while to realize Fort George is where it is. Or was, anyway.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Locally it’s location is described as “out front It’s Sugar”

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, Al Carraz, have you seen the photos of our national hero James Manoah Bodden driving the backhoe and knocking down the original building in a dispute with Government. Bodden had spent years in Texas and got that nasty attitude there but of course we worship him like he was a Caymanian never left here. And we put up a statue to him not far from where he knocked down one of our really genuine historical sites. Are we fool or wha’?

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      • Whatcha Say says:

        Unfortunately the answer often is ‘yes’ to that question. Politricks as usual in these islands is a national disgrace. Please, it is time for the ‘silent majority’ to wake up and smell the fever grass! The unique local identity and heritage is being eroded faster than anyone can stop it, unless the people wake up and take positive steps. It isn’t too late, but it very soon will be.

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