Bodden Town’s historic Mission House is now open by appointment only.
A lack of staff to man the building on a full-time basis is the main reason behind the partial closure, according to the Cayman Islands National Trust, which manages the site.
Previously, when a member of staff was present at the historic house, the building was open for any visitors who stopped by. Under the new arrangement, tour groups with a minimum of six people will have to make an appointment in advance, Denise Bodden, historic education and development manager at the National Trust, said in an email to the Cayman Compass.
She added that the Trust is trying to increase the viability of the Mission House as a “small house museum” and a tourist attraction, to ensure that it remains a fixture in Cayman’s tourism and heritage landscape.
Since starting “by appointment only” visits, the Trust has been giving tours to groups on a regular basis and has not experienced any problems with the new system, Ms. Bodden said.
However, as a result of this new system, she acknowledged, the Trust may miss out on some visitors on an annual basis.
The Mission House offers guided tours of the historic site for tourists, residents and school groups, as well as specialty tours, such as the Christmas lights bus tour. The building is also available for family portraits, weddings and dinners.
Ms. Bodden, who previously was at the Mission House on a full-time basis, is now at the National Trust office on South Church Street. She said she is still available on short notice to assist with any inquiries and tours.
“If visiting a particular attraction is important to a visitor, we encourage everyone to please call ahead to ensure your satisfaction,” Ms. Bodden said. “For example, we are not in a position to take walk-ins if we are conducting private tours, school groups or dealing with site maintenance as the site is a small home museum and space is limited.”
Tour groups of up to 10 people are asked to book through the Trust 24 hours in advance. For groups with more than 10 people, a one-week notice is required, as the Trust would need to organize staff or volunteers to assist.
To encourage visitors to go the Mission House, Ms. Bodden said the National Trust is notifying people about the site through social media and through locally printed information.
Mission House history
The Bodden Town Mission House site was used by early settlers for its abundant supply of water in the 1700s. In the 1800s it became known as the Mission House to early missionaries, teachers and families who contributed to establishing the Presbyterian ministry and school in Bodden Town.
Before it was turned over to the National Trust, the house was home to the late Emile Watler. His daughter Valene and her family were the last people to live in the home.
The house was rebuilt by the Cayman Islands National Trust after it was reduced to rubble in Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
The Trust’s Historic Committee collected and preserved original rafters, purlins and ironwood posts.
Rooms inside the Mission House showcase Cayman’s history by re-creating the living situations of the three families known to have owned the home. The site also houses a small resource room organized by the Cayman National Archive, and features a display from the Cayman National Museum. It also has a store selling toys, books, crafts and refreshments.
Outside the house, Cayman’s heritage is also reflected in the landscaped grounds with indigenous plants and trees and a traditional sand garden.