Bodden Town’s Mission House invites visitors to step back in time, its rooms depicting aspects of daily life of three different families known to have lived there.
Built on a site used by settlers since the 1700’s, the house rose to prominence in the 1800’s. It became known as the “Mission House” because of the early missionaries, teachers and families who lived there while establishing a Presbyterian church and school in Bodden Town. Those missionaries included Reverend Thomas Redpath and his wife, and Edgar J. and Anna Bernard Lyon.
The Watlers were the last family to live in the house, with several generations calling it home over a period of 77 years.
In 1969, Bert Watler and his wife Veleen moved in after returning to Cayman from Venezuela.
Bert’s son Pedro Watler, 57, recalled that when growing up there with his four siblings, there was no electricity or running water; the family used lamplight and candles, and pumped water by hand from a well and a cistern on the property.
“We had to fan ourselves to sleep at night,” said Mr. Watler about the hot summer nights.
“We had no TV. In fact, no one in the neighborhood had a TV at the time. I recall some people having a little radio which could be heard all over the community in the evening time, when it was blasted for everyone to hear the BBC news.”
The family eventually moved out and the house sat empty for several years. In 1996, it was acquired from Fenwick Watler by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.
In 2004, the Mission House was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. Despite many obstacles, the decision was taken to rebuild the house.
A team of volunteers dismantled and stored the original rafters and purlins for use in the reconstruction, and a number of ironwood posts, which were still in good condition, were preserved and reused.
Now open for guided tours by appointment, the Mission House also houses a small resource room organized by the Cayman Islands National Archive, as well as a display from the Cayman Islands National Museum. The on-site retail store sells toys, refreshments and locally made crafts.
For more information on the Mission House and other National Trust historic properties, visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky.
The Mission House in Bodden Town has a long history, having once housed the district’s early Presbyterian missionaries and later several families. The National Trust’s efforts have restored the house and grounds allowing visitors to experience a snapshot of life in Cayman’s early days.