With the grand re-opening of Pedro St. James Historic Site on Monday 29 May comes a completely restored and better than ever tourist attraction.
While the site has proved very popular recently for private functions and special events, it has been closed as a tourist attraction since Hurricane Ivan. wreaked its havoc in September 2004.
‘We have made many improvements to the site, and it is as good, if not better, than what it was before the hurricane,’ said Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Attractions Board, Gilbert Connolly.
The newly renovated site will re-open for business on the morning of the 29th and later that evening at 5.30pm it will be the host site of the Chamber of Commerce’s Business after Hours event. Special guest at this grand opening will be Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford.
The initial estimate for the renovation was $1.4 million, Mr. Connolly noted, but in the end it cost $1.3 million in total. $1 million was covered by insurance while the other $300,000 was from a capital injection from this year’s budget.
The gift-shop had not been badly damaged and has been open since January. Its interior was re-done and it sports a new, fresh, spacious look.
The cafeteria was gutted after it sustained extensive water damage, and it has been decked out with entirely new equipment and fixtures.
The theatre has a brand new hi-tech audio-visual system. Mr. Connolly explained that specialists from Canada, Cinequip White did the complete installation. It now boasts the most modern audio-visual equipment, which is simple to operate. The installation was done for what he describes as a very good price.
Mr. Connolly has made some improvements to the site in order to progress its marketability and use for special events.
The courtyard area outside the cafeteria has been paved recently. This can now serve as another option for special events such as weddings, some of which have already been held there.
A couple of grassy areas have also been created, one to the side of the cafeteria. This had been home to ironshore and hurricane debris and now boasts a plush new lawn with the sea and ironshore as a dramatic backdrop.
Another new lawn area has been created near to the great house.
This new useable space has been created in order to maximise the potential of the grounds for large outdoor functions. It enables more than one function to take place at the same time and gives clients a choice of what area to have their function in, said Mr. Connolly.
Landscaping has been a major improvement at the site. This is especially noticeable in the parking area out front.
‘We went to great lengths to try to improve the landscaping in the parking area in order to try to give the visitor a better experience,’ Mr. Connolly said.
He added that the first impression of the visitor is most important.
As a testament to the strength and courage of the Caymanian people, a creative monument to Ivan now sits near the ironshore at the edge of the site. It comprises 12 rocks to represent the date in September when the hurricane hit. It contains nine seats to symbolise the month when the hurricane struck and four tables to signify the year.
The monument is a symbol, Mr. Connolly explains, of the resilience and resolve of the Caymanian people to rebuild following the storm. The explanation of the monument will be explained on an information plaque for tourists.
The rocks used in the monument were washed ashore in the storm and the logs used to make the chairs and tables come from a large tamarind tree that was blown down and said, by Caymanians, to have been over 100 years old.
Mr. Connolly describes the monument as a simple idea he had that didn’t cost a thing, and he hopes that it will have appeal to visitors.
The large green area adjacent to the great house has not been changed, as the whole idea for this space is for it to be rustic.
However, another new addition to the site includes a store room being built to house tools and tables and chairs for special events.
The architecture of this building mimics elements of the architecture of the site, including the great house, and takes the same colour theme of white and green.
To remain in the same historic vein as the Steadman Bodden House, the doors and windows are wooden and it has a zinc roof.
The new signage for the great house will be in place for the grand opening, and the plant signage will follow a week later.
The Great House is as impressive as ever with all the usual props from olden days. It also includes contemporary rocking chairs for the public to sit on when they need to relax.
The roof had to be replaced, as did several windows and areas of wood rot.
Mr. Connolly explained that specially designed hurricane straps for the roof have now been anchored into the walls.
This will help to ensure that Pedro St. James Historic Site will remain a tourism treasure for many years to come.