Archaeology Renovations Underway; Lab Expected To Reopen In Four Months

The VINP archaeology lab, above, will be shuttered for four months as it undergoes extensive renovations.

A years-old plan to renovate the V.I. National Park Archaeology Lab at Cinnamon Bay has finally been set in motion. VINP Archaeologist Ken Wild and his team began moving out of the historic beachfront building last week in preparations for work to begin.

“The contractor just got the order to proceed, and they’re starting to act on it,” said Wild.
Florida-based contractor OTAK was selected to do the renovations, along with a few other ruins stabilization projects throughout the park.

The most exciting part of the renovations is the transformation of the lab into a user-friendly walk through time, Wild explained.

“We want it to have a good flow, so a teacher can walk in there with her class and take her students all the way through the history of St. John,” he said.

Analysis of artifacts found on the island will continue at the center of the museum, providing students and other visitors with a firsthand look at archaeologists at work. Interns will also be on hand to answer questions and help maintain the exhibits, which Wild expects will change frequently.

Taino artifacts found at the resource-rich Cinnamon Bay site are being recreated by local pottery artist Gail van de Bogurt for display at the archaeology lab.

In addition to the artifact display aspect of the renovations, the historic building will get a complete facelift as well. The modern concrete floor will be replaced with a “more historic period floor,” said Wild, and the electrical wires and conduit that currently run along the building’s interior walls will be hidden in the floor.

All windows and doors will be replaced with mahogany, which will better weather the environment and the threat of termites, and they will be painted an historic red. Door and window hardware will be hand forged replicas of historic hardware found on island, and the State Historic Preservation Office will oversee the entire process.

In contrast to the historic aspects of the building, a flat screen television will hang on an interior wall and play a video being created by Bill Stelzer on VINP archaeology.

“We originally thought about using a projector, but that was before the technology of flat screens,” said Wild. “You’ll be able to see the images much better in the daytime.”

The project is being funded by both the National Park Service and the Friends of the VINP, and work is expected to take three to four months to complete.

The historic Cinnamon Bay building that houses the archaeology lab could be more than 300 years old, Wild estimates, based on artifacts found during excavations along the building’s foundation.

“It’s possible that one of the first planters on the island named William Gandy built that building,” said Wild. “It was a great house first, and it’s possible that it was converted to a warehouse later on. In the mid-1700s, a planter’s son was killed there during a hurricane.”