Originally built in 1909, an all-wood traditional home which once housed some of North Side’s first settlers is still holding up strong.
Today, the house is an enduring treasure of that era of Cayman’s history, from its construction to the family history that it holds.
“The home was considered to be prestigious in those days,” said William Bloomfield Connolly, the owner of the home.
Located opposite North Side Post Office, the home is not hard to find. Set back from the road with a short driveway, it is painted white and trimmed with green, with a traditional sloping zinc roof.
Inside, the house is cool, with its front windows facing the sea and swaying coconut trees on the seaside offering glimpses of the coastline.
Made from cedar and yellow pine wood, the home features three bedrooms and one bathroom, along with a screened-in porch. A long hallway extends through the house to the kitchen, which was connected to the house some time after the home was built. The craftsmanship, hand-forged materials and traditional floor and roof plan are remarkable. Even the outside roof-catchment cistern used to collect and store rainwater for household and other uses holds its own charm.
The construction of the home is notable in that it differs from many of Cayman’s early homes. In Cayman’s early settler days, homes were often built from scratch using the wattle and daub method, noted Mr. Connolly, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips, called wattle, is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw.
To make daub, Cayman’s early builders gathered coral heads from the reefs, dried them in the sun, and cut large logs from the seagrape trees. The logs and coral were burned to ash, which was then combined with white sand and water to form a paste – “our version of a Cayman Portland cement,” said Mr. Connolly with a chuckle.
Mr. Connolly inherited the home from his father, the late Weddie Connolly, who had bought the half-finished home from his uncle, William Miothan Pouchie.
“What they grew in the fields was combined with what they caught from the sea. We ate fresh fish six days of the week and on weekends we had fresh conch and lobster.”
The Pouchies were the family who first settled on the land, according to Mr. Connolly. He said the Pouchies were part of a South American missionary team who ran aground on the reef at Gun Bluff, and because North Side was mostly uninhabited at that time, they settled there. The William Pouchie Memorial United Church, erected in 1903, was also located on the same property. William Pouchie, Mr. Connolly’s grand-uncle, was elected as the first Cayman minister of the Scottish Presbyterian faith.
Mr. Connolly lived in the house all his life, which he says is a testament to how well built and strong the house is, as well as to the fond childhood memories he holds from growing up inside its walls.
Mr. Connolly started school early, at age 5, at North Side Public Library, under the teachings of Beulah Smith from West Bay.
According to Mr. Connolly, she passed the house one day and found him crying because he wanted to go to school. Ms. Smith told his mother not to deprive the boy of getting an education but to send him along with his sisters the next day.
He remembers there being no electricity or telephones, and people surviving off growing their own produce, which was cultivated inland.
“What they grew in the fields was combined with what they caught from the sea. We ate fresh fish six days of the week and on weekends we had fresh conch and lobster,” he said.
The family had no running water and bathed in galvanized bath pans, drew water from the outside well and used an outside pit toilet. There was no kerosene, so they cut firewood to do the cooking.
In his teenage years, Mr. Connolly became a fireman for 18 months, but then went to sea like most Caymanian men, for six-and-a-half years. When he returned, he worked at customs for a little over two years.
“Those days when you worked for customs, you had a prestigious job, but made very little money to survive off, so I resigned … and joined the hospitality department at Cayman Kai as a front desk manager before retiring after 10 years,” he said.
Mr. Connolly, in his well-spoken way, gives God thanks for what he has today.