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Home > Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation

Protecting properties of significance in the Cayman Islands

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What is historic preservation and why is it important?

The built environment, in any community, is a physical manifestation of its culture, history and social structures.

Events that shaped the evolution of the Cayman Islands took place in many of the historic buildings here. These places reflect the past and inform the future, so their preservation anchors us to our past and provides a context in which to understand the present.

What are the key areas of historical property preservation that the National Trust focuses on?

historic preservation, historic preservation cayman, national trust cayman, cayman national trust, historic architecture, historic caribbean architecture, architecture cayman, historic cayman architecture, design cayman, architecture, caribbean, cayman islands, preservation, property preservation, property preservation cayman, cayman homes, chattel homes, cayman property, property cayman, reallife, real life, real life cayman, real life caribbean, real life magazine, reallife caribbean, magazine, lifestyle, charity cayman, historic cayman, cayman history, architectural history, caribbean historic designThere are three areas of historic preservation that are of interest to the Trust.

First is the general preservation of buildings deemed to be of historic or cultural significance. The Trust records the location, built form, appearance and any cultural links, for every traditional, historically or architecturally significant building or property in the Cayman Islands.

Second are the at-risk buildings. These are old buildings that may be slated for demolition or
are decaying structurally. Such buildings may be offered to the Trust as a ‘rescue’ but, due to limited funding, we can usually do little more than survey the threatened structure, so that a record can be preserved for posterity.

The third area of interest is the portfolio of ten or so properties actually owned by the Trust, acquired either by donation, cession or by purchase. A small number of these are conserved and restored, then used by the Trust as places of interaction and interpretation by the community.

What factors make a property a site of historical significance?

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How many properties has the Trust restored or protected? Describe the programmes in place.

The National Trust has some ten properties under its care, each of which it restores, preserves or maintains, as needed. There is also a small research component to ensure that the work carried out on each property is as accurate as possible and recognises its social, historic or cultural context.

The primary Trust property is the Mission House in Bodden Town, which is a functioning museum that showcases a typical 19th century Caymanian ‘mansion’ and also interprets the lifestyle and social status of the various occupants of the house over the years.

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It is not only houses that are of interest to the Trust though. Fort George on Harbour Drive is the Trust’s most important property in George Town and a significant part of the capital’s historic precinct. Other sites are Dr. Roy’s Ironshore site on South Church Street (once used for schooner launching and careening), the Watler Family Cemetery in Prospect Point and the Lighthouse Park in East End.

How many more properties worthy of preservation are there in the Cayman Islands?

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There are of course some national treasures that should be protected in perpetuity from destruction, inappropriate renovations or re-development or from disposal by alienation. These include the Constitution Hall, Central Post Office, the Legislative Assembly building, all the district libraries and, of course, the Glass House – beloved by many as a symbol of the optimism Caymanians held for the future of their fledgling island nation.

Just south of the Four Way Stop in West Bay and adjacent to Boggy Sands Road, is a clutch of traditional houses of exceptional architectural merit that have in recent times become run down and in need of conservation. Unfortunately, the National Trust does not have the means to acquire any of these.

Recently, a series of fresh water step wells – the early settlers’ principal, and sometimes only, source of drinking water – have been discovered in the South Church Street area as well as further east in Spotts. These, along with turtle meat, made the Cayman Islands a strategic victualling station in the 16th and 17th centuries and are thus of historic significance.

How does the Trust use its restored properties?

Most likely as museums or as artefacts that can be interpreted interactively or, in the absence of funding, properties are simply closed until funding is available for further preservation or renovation.

How is the National Trust’s historic preservation funded?

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Whilst there is considerable interest in donating funds to the National Trust for land acquisition, the donors’ interest is usually environmental. The number of potential donors willing to help the Trust acquire properties of historic significance is very small and acquisition costs are considerably more than that of raw land.

Do you welcome donations in the form of buildings or property?

historic preservation, historic preservation cayman, national trust cayman, cayman national trust, historic architecture, historic caribbean architecture, architecture cayman, historic cayman architecture, design cayman, architecture, caribbean, cayman islands, preservation, property preservation, property preservation cayman, cayman homes, chattel homes, cayman property, property cayman, reallife, real life, real life cayman, real life caribbean, real life magazine, reallife caribbean, magazine, lifestyle, charity cayman, historic cayman, cayman history, architectural history, caribbean historic designOccasionally, the Trust ‘inherits’ a historical property through a donation  or deed of cession. However, as the value of land increases, these donations have become increasingly rare.

If a property owner is considering making such a donation, the Trust is now requesting that it be accompanied by an endowment to assist with the preservation or conservation of that property in the future.

The Trust may also be approached by a developer who finds a traditional cottage on land intended for development a hindrance and seeks to dispose of it by ‘donating’ it to the Trust. This is usually done with the best intentions but requires that the building be relocated from the site in question.

Whilst there have been a few successful relocations of historic houses to sites such as Pedro St James, this is not the most desirable solution as it is not always possible to re-create the street or urban landscape in which it was originally set. It is always preferable that the structure be re-purposed or  integrated into the site redevelopment as a whole.

How can the National Trust assist owners of properties of historic or architectural significance?

historic preservation, historic preservation cayman, national trust cayman, cayman national trust, historic architecture, historic caribbean architecture, architecture cayman, historic cayman architecture, design cayman, architecture, caribbean, cayman islands, preservation, property preservation, property preservation cayman, cayman homes, chattel homes, cayman property, property cayman, reallife, real life, real life cayman, real life caribbean, real life magazine, reallife caribbean, magazine, lifestyle, charity cayman, historic cayman, cayman history, architectural history, caribbean historic designThe Historic Advisory Committee of the National Trust can advise owners on conservation methods or opportunities for re-use or re-purposing. The Trust is particularly interested in properties with unusual historic features such as ‘slave walls’ (drystack stone field fences) or freshwater step wells.

In the event that properties cannot be rescued, conserved  or re-purposed, the Trust can deploy volunteer teams of architects, surveyors and engineers to ‘map’ the traditional structure or artefact to create accurate records of the structures before they are demolished.

Are there laws with regards to preservation of historic properties?

historic preservation, historic preservation cayman, national trust cayman, cayman national trust, historic architecture, historic caribbean architecture, architecture cayman, historic cayman architecture, design cayman, architecture, caribbean, cayman islands, preservation, property preservation, property preservation cayman, cayman homes, chattel homes, cayman property, property cayman, reallife, real life, real life cayman, real life caribbean, real life magazine, reallife caribbean, magazine, lifestyle, charity cayman, historic cayman, cayman history, architectural history, caribbean historic designThe legal protection of properties deemed worthy of preservation is very limited. Under the Development and Planning Law certain areas in the Cayman Islands are zoned areas of historic importance. However, this simply means that when applying for planning permission in these areas, there are certain conditions relating to the preservation or renovation of such buildings, but there are no laws preventing their demolition or disposal. The Historic Buildings Register maintained by the National Trust is the only list of historic buildings or buildings of architectural significance.

How can the community assist in preservation efforts? Funding? Volunteering?

historic preservation, historic preservation cayman, national trust cayman, cayman national trust, historic architecture, historic caribbean architecture, architecture cayman, historic cayman architecture, design cayman, architecture, caribbean, cayman islands, preservation, property preservation, property preservation cayman, cayman homes, chattel homes, cayman property, property cayman, reallife, real life, real life cayman, real life caribbean, real life magazine, reallife caribbean, magazine, lifestyle, charity cayman, historic cayman, cayman history, architectural history, caribbean historic designThe restoration and conservation of historically significant buildings is an expensive business, so donations are always welcome. Volunteers willing to work on the properties are also welcome. In fact, the Trust has a Group Volunteer Programme whereby local firms offer the Trust a workday carried out by their staff. It’s an excellent way to promote community outreach while providing the volunteers a great team-building opportunity.


For more information contact, The National Trust for the Cayman Islands:

Call: 1.345.749.1121
Email:
Visit: www.nationaltrust.org.ky
Facebook: NationalTrustCaymanIslands


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