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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSentinels of the Past: Sugar Mills

Sentinels of the Past: Sugar Mills

Dear Source:
At the recent Proposed St. Croix Heritage Area Designation meeting, Christiansted, a question asked by Chris Abbett (NPS) was “what makes St. Croix unique?” Notwithstanding the island’s unique culture, I shared an idea I’ve had for decades: the historical physical evidence manifested by St. Croix’s sugar mills.
The distribution of sugar mills on St. Croix is such that one can usually see one from most locations on the island, in some cases more than one. With their graceful shapes and monumental proportions clearing the bush, masonry restoration and night accent lighting (solar power) would make them sentinels of the past and create a symbolic signature for St. Croix.
I have been asked many times by perspective clients to design houses around sugar mills. Always, I declined such opportunities. The enslaved worked and died at these mills, most times succumbing to accidents. There is probably blood on the ground at most, if not all, sugar mills. Besides adding inappropriate structural additions to the mills and impacting their aesthetics negatively one would have to contend with the Crucian-African Spirits at these sites. Would you build your house in a graveyard? Most prospective clients understood my reasoning and withdrew their idea.
The mills were located to take advantage of the winds and are at prominent locations. With the bush cleared away, their visual impact would be daily and nightly remainders of what the past was like on St. Croix and encourage us to preserve this history.
Granted, the vast majority of mills are privately held. To develop this idea into a plan the owners would have to lend their support. With the right plan of action, I think this plan can become reality. Should any owners be interested in exploring this opportunity as a not-for-profit endeavor they can reach me via e-mail.
Daniel F. Coughlin
St. Croix

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