Historical Society Plans To Construct Permanent Home on Bellevue Land


SJHS 2012-2013 President David Knight, center right, and SJHS board member Eleanor Gibney, center left, present a check to SJCF President Rob Crane, left, and SJCF board member Lonnie Willis, right, for a 99-year lease of a portion of the Community Foundation’s Estate Bellevue property.

As the St. John Historical Society approaches its 40th anniversary, the non-profit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation and understanding for the island’s history and cultural heritage announced at the Thursday, April 18, St. John Community Foundation meeting that it will construct a permanent home.

The announcement came on the heels of an agreement between the SJHS and the SJCF over approximately 6,000 square feet of the Community Foundation’s Bellevue land. The SJCF will lease the land to the SJHS for 99 years at a rate of $1 per year.

The SJHS hopes to construct a base of operations on the Bellevue parcel, finally creating a permanent home for the society’s numerous archives and collections. Plans for the building are still in the early stages, explained SJHS 2012-2013 President David Knight.

“At this time, the scope and scale of the SJHS facility on the site remains undetermined,” said Knight. “We are presently in the process of investigating our options, and committees have been formed by incoming SJHS President Lonnie Willis to move the process along. Generally speaking, the society is in immediate need of at least a modest office space and a secure, climate-controlled repository for its archive and collections.”

Although plans are still forthcoming, Knight hopes that the SJHS will eventually expand its facility to include a publically-accessible library and archive, along with a cultural history museum, he explained.

“In the end only time will tell, but I believe we are off to a very positive start, and I encourage the St. John community to support and embrace this vision,” said Knight.

The agreement between the two island non-profits came to be after the Community Foundation realized that historical ruins on the site were in need of preservation.

“When we were given the land from Reliance Housing, which is the company that did the Bellevue affordable housing project, we knew there were ruins on the property that needed to be preserved,” said SJCF President Rob Crane. “We thought the St. John Historical Society would be the perfect partner for this aspect of the land.”

The SJHS is confident in its abilities to care for the ruins at Bellevue, which date back to the early 18th century, Knight explained.

“As a condition of the lease, the area of the property that contains significant historic ruins is to be investigated by a professional archaeologist, and then surveyed to delineate a mutually agreed-upon ‘Historic Preservation Zone,’” he said. “It is this area that the SJHS is most qualified to oversee.”

The Community Foundation hopes an interpretive trail through the historic ruins will be established by the SJHS, Crane explained, and the SJCF looks forward to the island’s need for a repository for historical artifacts, data, and documents finally being met.

“This is a win-win situation for both of our organizations, but more importantly, it is a huge win for the island of St. John,” said Knight.