From: Dick Jenrette
Many of you have asked how Classical American Homes fared in the seemingly unending hurricanes and floods of recent months. Most affected were our properties in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (Cane Garden) and Charleston, South Carolina (Roper House). The other five properties were largely spared, with limited wind damage. Thanks to the experience and hard work of our site managers (David Crowther in St. Croix and Earnie Townsend in Charleston) recovery is well underway.
Most affected by the hurricanes was Cane Garden in St. Croix, which was hit hard by “Maria,” a dangerous Category-5 hurricane. We had just escaped the worst part of another Category-5 hurricane “Irma,” which had passed by St. Croix only 12 days earlier. Most importantly, we experienced no injuries or loss of life. The other good news is that the Cane Garden great house, built in 1784, once again survived. The place is a veritable fortress. Its walls are made of coral stone blocks, two and a half feet thick! Mercifully, the roof stayed on, although considerable water still got inside through rain penetrating around doors and heavily-shuttered windows. The basement floor also had two feet of water. Not so lucky was the nearby guest house, which lost its roof.
The most damage was to Cane Garden’s nearly 300 acres of grounds and beaches, including the uprooting of many big tamarind and neem trees. David Crowther’s team is trying to push them back up in hopes they will survive. We also face a massive re-painting job — everywhere! Worst of all there is no electric power on the whole island — and none is in sight. But Cane Garden has its own emergency generator. Fuel was difficult to procure initially but is now available.
Unlike Cane Garden, which is built on a hill 100-feet above sea level, Roper House — and much of Charleston — is at sea level. It doesn’t take a hurricane to flood the streets — a good rain will make the city look like Venice! Charleston is planning to raise its Low Battery sea wall, which would help. Roper House is located on the adjoining and much-taller High Battery, but this also overflows frequently. This time Hurricane Irma did overflow and we had about an inch of water on the first floor of Roper House. Fortunately, Earnie Townsend had moved all the first-floor furniture and carpets up to the second floor. The flooding damaged the duct work underneath the first floor and has to be repaired. We’ve also had to raise the garden level by about a foot to help prevent seawater inflow. This risk may also necessitate rebuilding a high balustrade wall that once surrounded Roper House, when it was first built in 1838. It was never rebuilt after the Civil War.
* * * *
Although Classical American Homes Preservation Trust’s other sites missed this year’s bumper crop of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes, there are many construction-related projects underway at these sites. For example, we have major repairs now underway on the Corinthian columns at Millford and, less complicated, repairs on the Doric columns at Edgewater. We’ve also converted the garage at our 69 East 93rd Street headquarters into space that can be used as a meeting room. The garage has been upgraded to “Mr. George F. Baker’s Carriage House” (it was built for Mr. Baker around 1929). In other news, I am moving ahead with a gift of the remaining 400 acres of land (and buildings) at Millford Plantation to Classical American Homes before year end — Merry Christmas!
Elsewhere, our programming at many sites continues to widen. This year we’ve expanded our classical music programs to Edgewater, Ayr Mount, and Roper House as well as Millford. Ayr Mount just had a successful Scottish games and music festival (a Cèilidh), and Millford is getting ready to be decorated for “Yuletide at Millford”. Our regular group tours continue to grow. So, you can see we’ve been busy and hope more of you will visit us in 2018 (when I enter my 90th year — ouch!).
In closing, this is a reminder that we still need your financial support (despite such a good stock market lately!). These seven properties have all stood the “test of time” and it is remarkable how so many of the original furnishings have returned to these sites. Luckily they all fit in beautifully. Come see for yourself!
Many thanks for your support,