In Bodden Town, a group of seniors is diligently working to preserve Cayman’s cultural history by opening doorways into our past.
Nurse Josie’s Senior Center, next to the Mission House in Bodden Town, is a growing historical and cultural center run by the Bodden Town Heritage Committee.
These committee members are keepers of a tremendous wealth of historic treasures. Artifacts on display tell the stories of pioneer hardships and the people who built Cayman’s communities, as well as heroic tales of sea life.
The house, along with an additional house next door that was purchased by government, is home to hundreds of artifacts, photos and displays.
An old wooden trunk strewn with knitted cloths and bed linen and a Singer sewing machine in a nearby corner tell the story of how clothes were made. A hole left in a cabinet drawer from a smoking pipe hidden by its owner from a visiting pastor is another story. And there are more stories behind an old dress on a rack, a radio, a cast iron pot, dinnerware from the Southwell years and handmade tools.
The former Nurse Josie’s Senior Center is itself a historic Caymanian house that represents hundreds of years of history. The center of the house is made of wattle and daub, and it sits on its original ironwood posts, said historian Mary Lawrence, chairperson of the Bodden Town Heritage Committee, the caretakers of the property.
The house saw three generations of owners before being turned into the senior citizens’ recreational facility. The naming of the home was given to Miss Josie because of her decades of medical service to the Cayman Islands.
“It was first owned by the Websters who sold it to the Stewarts, They in turn sold it to the O’Connors, who eventually sold it to the government,” she said.
“Government bought the home to use as a seniors home, but that notion was quickly discarded after Children and Family Services said they did not want it because the house had termites and had to be knocked down,” Ms. Lawrence said.
“At the time, we were looking for a permanent home to display its huge collection of Cayman artifacts and the house seemed like the perfect place,” she explained.
“When we took over the first house, it did not have anything inside because vandals had stripped it and government had boarded it up. With the help of others we managed to clean it up and the collection was added,” she said.
In later years the committee expanded into the house next door after government bought it from a Jamaican couple who had purchased it from the Stewarts.
All the artifacts in the two houses belong to the Heritage Committee. To host events on the property, the group raises money and sometimes government pitches in.
The property, which is over three-and-half acres, also includes a playground and children’s park. The heritage group has also constructed a stage that can accommodate a band. A gift shop is stocked with memorabilia and artifacts, and there is also a chicken coop, pig pen, outhouse, old-time kitchen and caboose.
“We just keep expanding and try to feature different ares of Cayman history,” said Ms. Lawrence.
At the back of the house there is the park and a pond, as well as a bird loft to see nesting ducks and other birds.
“From its inception, the Bodden Town Senior Citizens Committee has organized get-togethers at the homes, giving old friends opportunities to spend time together in activities such as knitting and crocheting, watching television and chatting.
“The only problem we really have at the park is parking,” said Ms. Lawrence. For now, she said, they would do the best they can come up with a solution.