Cayman home on the move

A traditional Cayman cottage built in South Sound in 1937 by Felix Thompson is on the move.

The house is being cut into pieces to be transported by flatbed truck to its new location near Pedro Castle.

Edwin Whittaker and Captain Paul Hurlston

Edwin Whittaker and Captain Paul Hurlston stand in the kitchen of the traditional cottage they are disassembling for transport to the Pedro area. In a landmark preservation effort, the historic cottage will provide a new home for a local family. Photo: Jewel Levy

Retired sea captain Paul Hurlston, who keeps himself busy these days working as a handyman, inherited the cottage and the oceanfront property it sits on from his uncle, Carl Bush, who passed away in 2004, aged 101, 4 months and 17 days.

The cozy house was occupied until Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but after being moderately damaged, has sat in disrepair. Captain Paul, who lives nearby on Walker’s road, is glad he’s finally found a new home for it.

‘I knew I wasn’t going to fix it up myself,’ he said.

Despite the damage it sustained in Ivan, evidenced by peeling paint and a missing ceiling revealing the moss insulation underneath, the interior is in remarkably good condition, thanks to its solid construction and termite-resistant pine floors.

‘When I made the decision to get rid of the house, I offered it to the Lions first, they weren’t interested. I offered it to the National Trust, who weren’t able to take it at that time and I offered it to another gentleman who also didn’t want it,’ said Captain Paul.

‘But I couldn’t wait any longer – it’s an eyesore I have to get it moved.’

As luck would have it, last December Captain Paul came across a family with land in Pedro that was in need of a home, who accepted his offer that they take over the cottage.

After some delays, making arrangements for the move were expedited, Captain Paul explained, with the impending ultimatum that the house would be bulldozed by Saturday.

It had the desired effect, and now the crew is at work.

It’s not unusual for homes to be moved around in Cayman.

The National Trust’s Denise Bodden says that when homes are moved, either because a family is relocated or the house is being preserved, all additions and outside structures need to be removed, as does the roof, and the structure properly stabilised.

Captain Paul’s house will also need to be sawed in half to make the long trip.

‘A wood house like this one has a lot more give than, say, a wattle-and-daub house, so it’s a bit easier to undertake, but it’s still a very complicated and difficult process,’ said Ms Bodden.

At the moment, it’s just Captain Paul, Edwin Whittaker and Sidney Jackson on the job, carefully sawing the house apart piece by piece.

‘I suppose there might have been some way to move it all in one piece, but it’s much easier to do it this way,’ said Captain Paul.

National Trust Council Chair Carla Reid says she is delighted with Captain Paul’s efforts.

‘We just cannot possibly do everything ourselves and to have someone interested in saving an old home other than ourselves is perhaps evidence of a changing perspective about the importance of preserving these buildings,’ she said.

‘And that applies as well for people purchasing a property that holds an old home. Quite often, it’s worth saving, but it’s lost to the bulldozer when it could have been put to some use, such as a games room or a guest cottage,’ she said.

Ms Bodden, who oversees the upkeep and care for the Trust’s 10 properties, is also pleased.

‘Until there is a law that protects Cayman’s built heritage, we will have to continue to rely on the goodwill of people such as Captain Paul to preserve our historic properties,’ she said.

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