Territory's Hurricane-Damaged Historic Sites Get $10M Grant

The announcement comes 18 months after hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands, seriously damaging several historic sites and monuments. Restoration work will be funded by insurance proceeds in conjunction with FEMA.

by Suzanne Carlson, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas / April 10, 2019

(TNS) — The National Park Service has awarded the territory a little over $10 million to assist in the restoration of hurricane-damaged historic sites.

The supplemental funding was granted to the Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office from the Historic Preservation Fund, which will allow for the repair of hurricane-damaged National Register-listed or eligible sites throughout the territory, according to a news release from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

The announcement comes 18 months after hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the territory, causing serious damage to a number of historic sites and monuments.

All of the Virgin Islands’ historic resources were included on the 31st annual list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places,” compiled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2018.

“Following last year’s tragic disaster, the hurricane-damaged historic resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to face significant challenges due to limited materials, financing, and expertise,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement. “Saving this irreplaceable cultural heritage is key to the future of the islands.”

According to the news release issued by DPNR, more than $5 million of the new grant funding will go toward restoration of two historic sites, including $1 million toward restoration of Government House in Charlotte Amalie and The Battery on St. John, with up to $2 million being used for administrative costs.

“Any balances will be eligible for use towards restoration of other sites,” according to the news release.

Local architects, Jaredian Design Group, which specializes in historic buildings and has previously worked on the Public Finance Authority and the St. Thomas Reformed Church in Charlotte Amalie, were awarded contracts for Government House and The Battery at $279,540 and $184,630, respectively, Government House said in late 2018.

Though a timetable for the projects was not provided by Government House, the contracts indicate they will terminate after one year.

Restoration work will be funded by insurance proceeds in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a statement from Government House in November 2018.

A preliminary disaster damage assessment of Government House on St. Thomas prepared by AECOM revealed the structure received a damage rating of “catastrophic,” complete with wind and water damage and a significant loss to the structure’s roof.

The scope of work for the projects will include: mold remediation and removal; plumbing system replacement; communication and fire alarm replacement; electrical system replacement; mechanical system replacement; lighting replacement; repairs on fixtures, furnishings and equipment; exterior skin repairs; and roof repairs, according to a Request for Proposal by Government House.

Built in the mid-1860s during the island’s Danish colonial era, Government House on St. Thomas has served as the site of historic meetings, hosted visiting dignitaries and became a repository for the various artifacts given to or purchased by the people of the Virgin Islands. The building contains a publicly owned art collection with an estimated value of between $388,735 and $648,405, according to records provided by Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr.

The Battery, which also houses the Office of the Governor, was also badly damaged.

Government House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and The Battery is within the National Historic District of Cruz Bay.

The State Historic Preservation Office is currently developing eligibility criteria and plans to release additional information to the public once those plans for future site restoration are finalized.

“All funded repair work must substantially mitigate the threat and include steps to mitigate future damages,” according to the news release.

The Historic Preservation Fund is derived from Outer Continental Shelf oil lease revenues and was established in 1977 as the primary source of funding to implement the Federal Preservation Partnership program. Annual grants are made to states, tribes and local governments under the National Historic Preservation Act.

— Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.

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©2019 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR)

Visit The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) at www.virginislandsdailynews.com

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