Friday, May 19, 2006

America Hill


My name is Molly Nook. Today was the first day of my month long internship with archeologist Ken Wild. My background is in photography which will be utilized these next few weeks photographing the ruins and artifacts. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Ken and the NPS and to learn as much as I can about archeology and the rich local history.

Today was quite an exciting first day. After meeting at Cinnamon Bay Lab to review some of the artifacts on display, Ken, Susanna, Mick and I hiked the half hour trail through Bay Rum trees and Teyer Palms and up to the America Hill Estate. There we photographed the Main House, the Cookhouse, Cistern, Servant’s Quarters and Yardwall. We also recorded measurements and data for the structures that are believed to date back to the early 18th century. America Hill is such a beautiful site, with the Estate house’s neoclassical detailing, weathered coral lime plaster facade and gorgeous view of Maho Bay. On a clear day you can see over Tortola.

Because of it’s complex and rich history, America Hill will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Within the nomination it is noted that, “periods of ownership in the 1850’s-1860’s remain remarkably intact, and provides a vivid picture of life on St. John Plantation. In February, 1863, for example, the Estate was supplied with 5 Westfalia Hams, 4 tins Green peas, 6 tins carrots, a dozen quarts Claret, 1 bottle Anchovies, 1 bottle capers, 1 bottle white pepper and ½ doz. small bottles Matteo Cologne. In the same month, they received, 1 white cotton twill, 32 yards, white Shirtings ‘francais’, ½ dozen white shirts, 1/3 dozen Duck Pants, 1 black silk Parasol. The following month: One Panama Hat $6; One felt Ditto $3; One gray spring hat $3’ a Horse Whip 50cents and One box fine Domino $1.25.”

Finally, “over a seven month period in 1863, the estate received entertainment: 11 periodicals including Punch, Illustrated Times and London News; novels including Trolloppe’s Barchester Towers, Thackery’s Philip, Hugo’s Les Miserables, Macauley’s History of England and a book titled Manufacture of Liquors.”

America Hill has a significant flagpole and on April 5, 1917, Danish Flag was lowered and replaced with the American Flag. The estate gradually fell into decline, following hurricanes. As you wander around the estate today, you can’t help but wonder if the old can on the ground is from those green peas or if the 20th century wine bottle wasn’t left over from rambunctious visitors when America Hill ran as a guesthouse. There is a legend that the property was a base for bootlegged liquor and smuggling in the 1930’s yet by the 1940’s, the America Hill Greathouse was in ruins. Hurricane Hugo finally took the remains of the roof off and collapsed the principal floor into the basement. The America Hill site is now closed to visitors due to the unstable ruins.

1 comment:

John said...

The America Hill information was very interesting. I hiked up there last week and wondered what the story was on the old house. Thanks. In the book "St John Backtime" there is a reference to the America Hill Estate (pg 26) and a drawing from 1854 which shows what appears to be the house, although perhaps lower on the hill.