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HomeNewsArchivesWork Begins to Restore Historic Frederiksted Waterfront Building

Work Begins to Restore Historic Frederiksted Waterfront Building

April 28, 2007 — The revitalization of the Frederiksted waterfront passed a kind of landmark recently as renovations began on the last derelict Strand Street building, the old #14 Strand.
Kay Boulware-Miller, a New York attorney who grew up on St. Croix, is the new owner of the historic house. She has engaged local architect Gerville Larsen, a fifth-generation Crucian, and contractor Deon Construction for the renovation.
“It is an extremely valuable and important historic townhouse,” Larsen said.
The building in question is familiar to anyone who ever walks on Strand in Frederiksted because of its attractive, distinctive and unmistakable wide white limestone, with three rhombic diamond-shaped inlays of yellow stone. It stands at the corner of Strand and Hill across from Richards and Ayer Realty. Work began on it late last year and is progressing slowly.
Boulware-Miller wants to maintain the architectural integrity of the building and rebuild in as historically and culturally accurate a manner as possible, with the correct style of such architectural details as shutter and trim. It may be half residential and half commercial, but she has not decided yet.
“I want it to be esthetically in keeping with its environment and with Seven Flags,” said Boulware-Miller. Seven Flags was a restaurant operated out of the building sometime back.
It may become a restaurant again, or some light commercial enterprise such as a shop and an apartment. The details can come later. The first order of business is to stabilize the building, Boulware-Miller said.
That stairway is on a drawing of the building dating to the first years of the 1800s, when it was owned by one Robert Montgomery. Records say Montgomery built a house on the site about that time, although there are also records of a house there as early as 1780. The wooden portions of the house apparently always had much the same outline, with its hip roof so typical of the area running parallel to Strand. The type of exterior siding has changed several times over the years.
Much of the building was damaged in the Fire Burn of 1878, but it was rebuilt immediately after. If you look at the building from Strand Street right now there are wooden screens to hide the construction work and secure the site. If they were not there, you would see a wide gallery framed by four spacious brick archways- and a fifth smaller one underneath the eight-foot-wide staircase. Underneath the arches you can see the four pillars supporting them are simpler and slightly lighter in color than the rest of the stonework. These were constructed after the Fire Burn.
The rest of the first-floor stonework is presumed to be original work repaired after the fire. Again looking from Strand Street, the exterior building wall back underneath the gallery is quite dark, in marked contrast to the newer stonework and the stone higher up. Could this be from the historic fire?
There used to be a wooden trellis over the stairway, but it has since deteriorated and been removed.
The stone portion of the building is in fairly good shape, but the wooden interior is in bad shape. There was a small tree growing inside the building. Larsen has taken to the task of overseeing renovation with relish.
“We did a partial demolition to look at the condition of the original wood frame and structure," Larsen said. "The upper building was originally slated for demolition for safety reasons, but the Historic Preservation Commission asked Larsen to analyze it and try only a partial demolition…. It is a really good example of what we should do with all our historic properties in the V.I."
An unusual aspect of the wooden interior, Larsen says, is a distinctive dental crown molding particularly around the tray ceiling in the second-floor living room.
“I’ve only seen this in Frederiksted," Larsen said. "It is more carved and pointed than square as in most dental molding."
At the top of the stone stairs, from the 1880s onward, there was a very ornate canopy with Victorian fretwork. While it has been gone for years, there are drawings of it in a 1981 book, Victorian Frederiksted, by Susan Brown, as well as descriptions in a 1961 Danish architectural survey. Based on those records, Larsen will oversee the recreation of the canopy.
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