Caneel Bay Resort’s efforts to accommodate more guests for dinner in the ruins adjacent to the Equator restaurant by installing a floor caught the attention of V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild last week.
The resort is in the process of constructing a wooden floor to increase the maximum number of people the ruins can accommodate for dinner from 14 to 35 or 40, according to one resort official.
“There was a little ditch there that was unusable, so we’re just raising the floor to have a bigger function space,” said Caneel Bay Resort Manager Nikolay Hotze, who admitted he did not know whether the ruins were protected. “It’s a very popular space for weddings, but the maximum we can hold for dinner is 14 people, so we’re extending that space so we can put 35 to 40 people in the ruins.”
The floor will be designed to match its surroundings, according to Hotze, who has been at Caneel since January.
Lengthy Process Required
“We’ll set it up so that it looks similar,” he said.
Generally, any plans for construction or even patchwork at historic ruins require a lengthy study by Wild, the VINP archaeologist explained.
“I have to develop a Section 106 statement, which describes the action you’re going to undertake on the historic structure,” said Wild. “Then it goes out for approval by the State Historic Preserva-tion Office and the option would be approved by the VINP superintendent.”
“It’s a long process, but it’s there for some very good reasons, because you could go in there and apply the wrong concrete and the bricks could fall out,” the VINP archaeologist added
The only pending projects dealing with historic ruins are a handicap walkway at the Cinnamon Bay ruins and a V.I. Environmental Research Station-requested museum at Lameshur, according to Wild.
Maintaining Historic Setting
“The one thing I can do as a VINP person is map the ruins and record them,” he said. “I can also do some minor excavations to gain greater understanding of the ruins so we can interpret them better.”
Keeping the ruins’ historic setting is also important when deciding whether to allow any type of work to be done, explained Wild.
“I have to get all my facts together, as far as who’s done this already and what’s the best approach,” he said. “You don’t want to go to a plantation and see this ugly modern thing going through there. It should still give visitors the ability to enjoy the ruins in somewhat of their natural, historical setting.”
While Caneel did not obtain permission from Wild or the VINP to construct the floor at its ruins, it was likely a misunderstanding, explained Wild.
No Harm to Ruins
“They’ve approached us before for the same project and we developed a statement for it, but the project never happened,” he said. “It’s very probable that the new manager came in and didn’t know the rules yet. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.”
The construction of the floor, essentially a suspended wood deck with concrete footings, has not harmed the surrounding ruins, explained Wild.
“What they’ve done has not harmed anything,” he said.
The area where the floor is being built was historically used as an area to collect molasses, according to Wild. There was likely a masonry basin floor in the ruins, where 1,500 barrels containing sugar which was skimmed were turned upside down to allow the molasses to seep out.
“The masonry basin floor is probably still there under the dirt,” said Wild. “The dirt that’s holding the concrete pads is probably cushioning the basin.”
Caneel, Park Have Good Relationship
Wild looks forward to meeting with Caneel management to ensure the resort is sensitive to its ruins, the VINP archaeologist explained.
“We’ll tell them, ‘if you want to dig a hole, I’ll dig it for you,’” said Wild. “We do need to talk to Caneel to make sure we’re on the same page. Caneel and the Park have a very good understanding of protection and preservation, and the Park certainly wants to work with them to make sure they are able to have those ruins there for the visitors to see.”
Martha Bogle, who began her job as acting superintendent of the VINP on Monday, April 16, could not comment on whether the Park would ask Caneel to remove the floor from its historic ruins.
“Ken (Wild) and I will have to take a look and also meet with the manager,” said Bogle. “I cannot say anything about whether the floor will have to be taken down. We want to discuss what our options are.”
“Caneel Bay is a wonderful partner to the Park, and we want to work together to ensure our resources are protected for everybody,” Bogle added.