A newly renovated house at Harry McCoy Sr. Park opened to the public Monday with a large display of artifacts.
The re-dedication ceremony officially opened the Heritage House, which is an extension of Nurse Josie’s Heritage Home in Bodden Town.
The Heritage House offers visitors an opportunity to find out more about the town and its people through an impressive collection of items relating to the history of the Bodden Town District.
The house, which for many years was the home of Ashford and Ethel Stewart, was eventually bought by the Cayman Islands government. The Bodden Town Heritage Committee was using the building to store some of their items and using it for functions, but according to Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden, it had fallen into disrepair with a leaking roof. There were plumbing, electrical and air conditioning problems, among other issues, he said.
Inside, alongside a collection of antique cast iron pots and pans, some beds, pictures, rocking chairs, a sewing machine and thatchwork pieces are old dresses on racks, radios, seamen’s memorabilia from the Southwell years, and handmade tools.
“We have been collecting artifacts for a very long time,” said Mary Lawrence, chairwoman of the Bodden Town Heritage Committee.
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. All the artifacts in the two houses belong to the Heritage Committee.
“The two homes were acquired for the purpose of housing the collected works and now represent a district museum,” said Mr. Bodden.
“I hope the Heritage House [will] become a large part of the Cayman tourism product, and [be] something that Bodden Town [can] be proud of.”
A tour of the building takes visitors back in time. Mr. Bodden said inside the house reminded him of Saturday evenings when he had family get-togethers at his mother’s old house.
There were letters that were falling apart, from 1931 and 1932, written between his grandmother and grandfather.
“It was amazing to read that to the family, and just hearing them talk about the things we have heard about … the Cimboco, all the people in the area who [were] sick, leaving or having babies. When you go in, you will have that same [feeling] because each of you is going to find a piece of you somewhere in that history,” he said.
Repairs to the house were carried out by the Public Works Department at a cost of $62,000 over a period of four months. The women of the Bodden Town Heritage Committee also worked on the renovations, often spending many days and nights to get the place in order.
Framed pictures of people from the community adorn the walls.
“Come by, walk around, observe the artifacts and the special area for seamen,” she said.
At the re-dedication ceremony, Bodden Town MLAs Al Suckoo, Wayne Panton and Anthony Eden all spoke highly of the women and the work they did at the heritage home.
Mr. Eden said people would be amazed at the number of artifacts in the building, and they did not need to go overseas or anywhere to look at new and interesting things.
Mr. Suckoo said he knew he was in for a history treat because every time Ms. Lawrence speaks, he learns something new.
“She really is an ambassador to the district … and the heritage committee, because I know how hard they worked to get the center to where it was,” he said.
The re-dedication ceremony was held under the shade of almond trees and visitors got a guided tour of the building, and enjoyed local food and entertainment by the Swanky Kitchen Band. A cultural history lesson was also part of the day’s events.
Mr. Bodden encouraged the public to view the display at the many different events being held there, which are funded by the Bodden Town Heritage Committee, with occasional support from the government.
To visit the center, contact Committee Chairwoman Mary Lawrence on 747-2151.