Today’s Editorial January 17: Trust is on a mission

Hurricane Ivan may have taken much from us, but with headstrong determination we’ve been able to mend and replace homes, businesses, vehicles and more.

Next on the drawing board is the rebuilding of the historic Mission House in Bodden Town.

The National Trust had embarked on the mission of restoring the old house before Hurricane Ivan struck 11-12 September, 2004.

Now the task is more daunting.

The old house was flatted in the winds of Hurricane Ivan and it appeared all hope for the house went with the storm.

But material from the old house was salvaged and has been sorted. Mr. Boosie Arch will use as many of the original materials as possible, including the home’s Cayman Mahogany staircase and Ironwood posts.

So much of our old architecture and history have disappeared from Cayman because of development, neglect or storms.

The rebuilding project is possible because of donations from private-sector businesses and individuals. But more money will be needed.

If your company or you are looking for a worthy cause to help fund, turn to the National Trust and this worthy cause in Bodden Town.

The Mission House was built in the early to mid-nineteenth century, probably by slave labour. It’s called the Mission House because, records show, missionaries used it.

It was also used as a weekend house in 1907 and 1908 by the Islands’ Commissioner Mr. George and his family.

A school was located there until 1917 and in 1920 Mr. Emile Watler, police inspector and lay preacher, bought the house for his young family and renamed it Everglades.

In the early 1990s Mr. Watler’s son Fenwick was cognizant of the deterioration of the house and approached the National Trust, telling the agency it could have the house only if it would undertake to restore it. While it was a good idea, it wasn’t feasible at the time.

Then in January 1996 an anonymous Swiss couple made a very generous donation with the proviso that the local community and the Cayman Islands Government had to demonstrate their commitment to the project, by showing a willingness to get involved and by matching the gift with their own funds.

Government agreed, and provided sufficient money to purchase the house and land, which meant that the gift money could be applied directly to the restoration and development of the site. After negotiations and feasibility studies had been conducted, in November 1996, both the Mission House and 2.75 acres of land were transferred to the Trust.

Many people have been protectors of this house over the years. It is wonderful to see that it is being rebuilt to help preserve some part of Cayman’s rich culture and history.