The historic Bodden Town Mission House has reopened its doors to the public, offering regular daily tours.

The National Trust, the nonprofit organization which manages the property, said it is introducing new opening hours and hoping to bring renewed energy back to the old home.

Since 2015, because of a lack of full-time staff, tours of the Mission House could be done by appointment only and the premises was closed when no tours were booked.

“All that’s about to change,” said Jennifer Martinez, the site’s new historic coordinator. “We are going to be featuring lots of local products, including arts and crafts along with Mission House tours; traditional cooking classes on a regular basis, fun days for kids and other activities for the family.”
Nadia Hardie, executive director of the National Trust, welcomed Ms. Martinez on board, and described her as a “fifth-generation Caymanian from Bodden Town” who has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry.

“She is passionate about bringing renewed energy and enthusiasm to this National Trust historic property,” Ms. Hardie added.

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She said Ms. Martinez aims to create a Cayman-kind atmosphere where visitors and guests can step back in time to a Cayman of “yesteryear.” The Mission House’s gift shop is also open, with a display of traditional handicrafts.

Jennifer Martinez points to a traditional wash stand inside one of the Mission House’s bedrooms.

A “fun day” is also being planned for Saturday, May 12, the day before Mother’s Day, Ms. Martinez said. Families are invited to visit the house and grounds for this free event.

“It’s nice to be a part of something that showcases how our people lived to visitors and guests and even to our kids who may not have known what a ‘wattle and daub’ or a ‘whomper’ is,” Ms. Martinez said.

During a tour of the house this week, she highlighted a dining room table that is more than 77 years old, with legs made from the feet of a four-poster bed, as well as a mahogany “knee,” which she said was used in ship building but is now supporting the upper level of the Mission House.

She talked about the ironwood posts on which the house was erected, while taking visitors through the many rooms of the house, pointing to a religious room, bedrooms with crocus shag rugs and patchwork quilts, a bathtub with crab claw legs, and a “man cave” room featuring its own hammock and smoking pipe.

The traditional two-story Caymanian home, dating back to the 18th century, gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of Caymanian people from that era.

A mural inside the house shows a scene from earlier years.

According to the National Trust, 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 being turned over to the National Trust, the house was home to the late Emile Watler. His daughter Veleen and her family were the last people to live in the home.

Outside the house, Cayman’s heritage is also reflected in the landscaped grounds with indigenous plants and trees and a traditional sand garden.

Visitors, residents and schools can take part in guided tours on Mondays from noon until 4 p.m., and Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours are also available on weekends by appointment. Call 945-3769 for more details. Tours cost $10 for adults and $4 for children, a minimum group of six people per tour is required.

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