When the V.I. Antiquities Law was enacted in 1998, the V.I. Legislature and V.I. Government understood that our cultural resources were in jeopardy from not having enough protection especially for entities that owned abandoned historic properties. When I won the Christiansted Town Plan competition in 2013 sponsored by the V.I. Economic Development Authority's Enterprize Zone and 3 years later it was enacted, I included for revitalization and adaptive reuse, a unique and important historic structure that we all know as the Old Christiansted Hospital. Periodically, as I always do, I searched online to see what relevant information exists on our rich culture heritage specifically on our stunning architectural gems. I recently uncovered this video produced by Dondre Richards.
Let me first give massive kudos to Dondre for venturing into this historic ruin and capturing this footage. We, as a community, have blinders on: only seeing what we want to see and not always seeing what we need to see. Our heritage is always front and center here even, if at times, its hidden under some verdant green foliage that can be removed with some good 'ole elbow grease. It's my belief that we don't exude enough community support to demand that these important town properties are first stabilized and then fully restored and rehabilitated. We want more visitors to come to our shores to enrich our monetary coffers and infuse our islands with economic growth ... guess what, it's staring us in the face. The best tool to make this happen is via creating original and authentic products for them to experience. So much for trying to always build new bland architectural structures that unfortunately will not survive the test of time!
At the eve of our 100th Centennial from "being sold" by Denmark as the Danish West Indies to become the Virgin Islands of the United States, we as a people must show to each other and the world, what exactly we have accomplished in the past 100 years under American rule. Trust me, we have many amazing historical achievements both locally and globally to tout if we take the time to research it. However, when I see how we treat our ancestral built environment with such disdain, I now have to say: wake the hell up. Historic properties owned by the V.I. Government, by private companies or by individuals that exert on them demolition by neglect, need to be addressed by our collective community. We need to say loud and clear to them: we do care and we demand they are treated will the love, protection, preservation and conservation they deserve. They tell our story: one historically whitewashed and unheralded of how, in the face of adversity, our enslaved African ancestors, built this unique and special place fused with the aesthetics of our 2 colonizers - Denmark and the United States of America, creating a clear cultural Virgin Islands identity. The above mentioned poor stewards of our important abandoned buildings are stymying the growth of both of our rich historic towns on St. Croix: Frederiksted and Christiansted and on St. Thomas: Charlotte Amalie and Savan. Let's change how we approach our various local problems by creating a preservation movement that will have great impact on our many varied social issues. We already know the problems that exist and let's start, through our collective community efforts, creating viable and sustainable solutions. We need to begin to come together as a community to make a difference and speak up about the places that matter to us for all of us.
Old Christiansted Hospital circa 1920
Old Christiansted Hospital today