The most photographed house on Grand Cayman, The Old Homestead, commonly called ‘the pink house’ on West Bay Road, is simply lying in wait for the right person to come along and make use of its function and beauty.
The pretty little Caymanian cottage, which was built in 1912 by Mr. Phillip Bothwell, was used most recently as a tourist attraction, where tours were given to display some of the old Caymanian traditions and charm.
However, the failing health of 74-year-old Mr. George MacLure Bothwell, son of the original builder, has caused the house to sit idly and watch vacationers pass by enthusiastically snapping pictures of it to take home from their sojourn in Cayman.
‘To me this house is so precious,’ said Mr. Bothwell, who was born and raised in the three-bedroom house, the sixth of eight children (seven boys and one girl).
Because his health has not allowed him to continue giving the tours that were so popular with visitors throughout the 1990s, he is hoping that someone will agree to rent the home for use as an art or writing studio, craft shop or even doctor’s office. ‘Anything just to keep the place open,’ he asserted, although he firmly stipulates that it is not for sale.
‘All the memories that I have here – no money can buy that,’ he said.
The house, made of wattle and daub construction, has withstood all of Cayman’s stormy Nor’westers and hurricanes and remained untouched following last year’s savage Hurricane Ivan with the exception of some seawater getting inside the house.
The house is typical of Cayman homes of the period, supported as it is by ironwood posts which form the main frame.
George’s parents Phillip and Jeanette Jemimah (originally a Henning) married in 1915 and spent all their married lives in the house, raising their children. The son points proudly to the hand carved mahogany bed where his mother gave birth to all children. On the ceiling is a hook, from which a net was draped to protect the babies from mosquitoes, he said.
The sole daughter, Dorith, lived in the house all her life until she passed away in 1992.
‘She kept the house and yard very well,’ said Mr. Bothwell, explaining that bags of sand were carried in baskets from the beach for the yard.
Other features of the house that he is quick to point out are the floor beds he and his brothers slept on while his sister slept on a bed in her own room. These consisted of sacks filled with plantain leaves. He recalls his mother bringing them out to the garden each day to air them.
He also remembers having cuts and grazes cured by aloe vera plants growing in the herb garden in the back yard and his mother cooking in the caboose out back.
Another strong memory from childhood is the Crepe Myrtle with its beautiful lavender blooms in the front yard, taller and older than he is now, at about 100 years.
He also recalls his mother’s hospitality. ‘Any person that came to the house my mother would not let them leave without a piece of cake, milk or coffee,’ he said.
‘We’re losing a lot of that and a lot of what was really Caymanian. We’re losing it fast,’ he said.
During the ’90s when the tours were operational, Mr. Bothwell carried on this legacy, offering guests a free piece of sweetened cake and homemade limeade.
‘I’ve had them all here,’ he says, ‘People from Ireland, Scotland, Germany and they all thought it was a wonderful house and a wonderful thing I was doing.’
Now Mr. Bothwell can go there in the evening, sit in the garden and think of the all the wonderful times he had growing up there and wonder what will become of it in the future.