Cayman Islands National Cultural Foundation staff and volunteers where busy as bees on Friday getting Miss Lassie’s house in tiptop shape for the festive holiday season.

The annual restoration project, named “Christmas of Yesteryears,” aims to beautify the 139-year-old wattle-and-daub home and the surrounding property in South Sound.

On Friday, volunteers replaced dirty white sand with fresh sand from the beach, trimmed the bushes, cleaned and painted window shutters, dusted ornaments, painted the cistern and replanted periwinkles.

“We have some ladies doing internal works, brushing down, wiping up, doing the floors, fixing up, cleaning linens and curtains. A second group outside are trimming trees and helping to remove some of the grass,” said Orlando Desdunes, the Cultural Foundation’s operations coordinator.

He said the concept is to have white sand beds just like in years gone by. “We have a section that is pretty overgrown with grass, which is being removed and we are bringing fresh sand from the beach to cap it and rake it with the rosemary bush.

Phase two of the project, he said, will be the liming of the house itself.

“The house is not painted or concrete but stick wattle in the middle and lime on the outside to keep it together. The back section of the complex, which is made of wood, will be painted.” He said this will take place in late January or early February.

Cultural Foundation’s Dexter Benliss sweeps white sand around Miss Lassie’s home. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Phase two will also see the installation of a drip water irrigation system for the plants around the house, trimming of the larger trees and renovation of the back of the complex.

Caymanians still hold fond memories of searching for the perfect willow tree, decorating the tree, cooking Christmas beef and heavy cakes, gathering ground provisions from the fields, dancing quadrille music in the streets and attending church Christmas morning.

They would look forward to “backing” white sand from the beach to place in the yard, and raking it over with a rosemary broom. The yard covering was also intended to welcome seamen back home who had been out at sea for months

Gladwyn Bush, otherwise known as Miss Lassie, was a visionary artist who is known for making her mark on the cultural history of the Cayman Islands through the visual representation of her dreams.

She adorned the windows and interior of her house as well as the outdoor kitchen with vivid, colorful, Biblical abstracts. The house has been declared a site of national historic interest, one of only six in the Cayman Islands.

It is estimated that the traditional wattle-and-daub house was built in 1878 by Miss Bush’s father and grandfather.

Volunteers and landscapers clean up the property surrounding Miss Lassie’s house. – Photos: Jewel Levy