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Visit Pedro Castle

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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Visit Pedro Castle

Postby KarenS » Fri May 26, 2006 6:21 am

From Cayman Net News: "Pedro St James, popularly called Pedro Castle, is by far the Cayman Islands’ most treasured landmark and ‘sacred’ place, given its role in the formation of the first elected Parliament.

That public meeting to chart the course of the new form of governance took place on 5 December 1831 when its buildings and grounds housed the courthouse, jail and public pound.

Life at the Pedro Castle, which started in 1780, is about to be relived, beginning Monday, 29 May 2006 in its Savannah home.

After Hurricane Ivan wrecked the property in September 2004, the Cayman Islands Tourism Attractions Board is overseeing a $1.3 million in renovation, landscaping and refurbishing.

Chief Executive Officer of the board, Gilbert Connolly, said $1 million came from insurance claims and $300,000 from the Department of Tourism (DOT).

'We have taken steps to make sure that the historic integrity of the great house was maintained, so we have restored the great house to the standards and quality to what existed prior to Ivan,' he said.

Mr Connolly said several new attractions have been added to the site, including a memorial to Hurricane Ivan.

'We used the remnants from the hurricane, for example, we took the stones that Ivan washed ashore to form a circle and we used the tamarind tree that Ivan blew down to make some seats and tables,' he said.

'The concept of the memorial is that the 12 stones represent the day that Ivan struck the Island, the nine chairs represent the month, the four tables represent the year that Ivan hit. It’s a very simple idea but we hope that visitors will find it of interest.'

The official also said the popular tourist attraction has more venues for public hiring and that creates an opportunity for increased revenue.

Patrons to the theatre will experience improvements to the ambience and better quality productions due to advanced equipment installed there.

Since 1991, the Cayman Islands Government has owned the property and has entrusted it to the Cayman Historic Sites Committee.

The guardians were instructed then to restore Pedro Castle to a heritage tourism attraction and it has been top notch with the hundreds of visitors who have experienced its history and charm.

But Hurricane Ivan, which extensively damaged the castle, the theatre and the café, placed the popular attraction on hold for 20 months.

About ten percent of the artefacts and furnishings were either lost or damaged, resulting in the contracting of Restoration Curator, Mary Peever, of Canada.

Ms Peever is no stranger to Cayman, having previously conducted a research on Pedro Castle.
She said apart from restoring the artefacts and furnishings there are new developments at the site to cater to a broader demographic of people.

'I have tried to introduce marine associated items to interest the older Caymanians who have been involved in seafaring. I have also introduced children’s toys and furniture, which we hope will be of interest to children.'

She also said that more emphasis has been placed on the roles that women played on the site in the 1800s.

Ms Peever describes the castle as, 'A living history site that portrays the life of people in the Cayman Islands from the late 1700s up until the early1800s, the time of emancipation.'

'There are not many sites in the Caribbean that portrays as accurately the life of the 18th century planter and the role he played and the role the slaves played in the plantation process,' she added.
According to her, visitors and scholars would be pleased after they experience a day at Pedro Castle.

'It’s compelling for both tourists who are casually interested in historic sites and scholars who would like to know more about living history and how day-to-day life was carried out on a plantation.'

She noted that in other Caribbean islands there were differences depending on the cultural background of the settlers.

All is set for Monday’s grand opening with the Chamber of Commerce hosting its business-after-hours event there from 5:30 am to 8:00 pm, Mr Connolly said.

Also invited for the celebrations are H.E the Governor Stuart Jack, Cabinet members, tour operators, land and sea cooperatives, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Department of Tourism and tourism stakeholders."
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