Today’s Editorial November 09: Rebirth of Pedro St. James

The sad news is that Pedro St. James Castle won’t be open to any of us any time soon.

That’s a shame.

The castle is one of the most popular historic sites in the Cayman Islands for locals and visitors.

It was there that democracy was born when the first government was formed in the building in 1831.

William Eden built the great house in 1780 to be used as a residence and community refuge.

The building has been the site of many historic events in the Cayman Islands.

It was used as a courthouse and a jail and in 1835 a proclamation ending slavery was read there.

In 1877 lightning struck Pedro St. James and killed William Eden’s granddaughter, Mary Jane. The house was abandoned because it was considered unlucky.

In the 1880s the house was scavenged for materials and reduced to a stone ruin.

William Eden III, the founder’s grandson, fixed up several rooms at the castle as a residence around 1910, but soon abandoned it again.

But in the 1950s Thomas Hubbell saw promise in Pedro St. James and began renovating the home, making it look more like a castle, claiming it was once a pirate lair built in 1631.

Bad luck returned in 1967 when fire damaged Pedro. Mr. Hubbell died in a plane crash in 1977. In 1989 the new owners were forced to close the castle’s restaurant after another fire.

In the 1990s, the government stepped in to take over ownership of Pedro St. James, spending $7.5 million and taking seven years to completely restore the site, making it a top tourism destination.

It would appear that bad luck struck again in September 2004 when Hurricane Ivan took its toll on Pedro, removing the roof of the great house and leaving the theatre and cafeteria heavily damaged.

Now for the good news:

The Tourism Attraction Board is preparing for the rebirth of the castle.

No one knows how long the repairs are going to take. But care is being taken to work with the original Pedro St. James historical consultants and the Ministry to ensure the site is brought back up to standard, both technologically and historically.

While we won’t have Pedro St. James Castle as a site for New Year’s Eve celebrations and other functions, we can take heart in knowing that the Tourism Attraction Board, Ministry and Government are doing all they can to bring this magnificent structure back to life.

In the meantime, we’ll be patient and anxiously await the rebirth of a great historical site.