Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: A look at designs of houses and ecology in Savan
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Title: A look at designs of houses and ecology in Savan
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: October 9, 1998
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Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00196
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
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18 e DOty Newn Friday. Octot 9,1998

Island Life

A look at designs of houses and ecology in Savan

This final column will focus
on the architecture+ design of
houses and the potential for cul-
tural and cco-tourism in historic
Savan. During the walk of his-
toric Savan. Rachelle Shells, the
coordinator for the program "A
Walk through the Heritage of
Savan" and I pointed out to Ibe
students the architectural designs
of houses in Savan.
The architectural designs of
houses in Savan was one of the
information the students had to
write on their Data collection
sheet neighborhood-residential
survey. Edith de Jough Woods, a
preservationist. spoke about sev-
eral types of houses and their
characteristics of Savan. She
mentioned the one story frame
house some of lapboard and some
of shingled. The houses were two
and three family small structures.
Woods stated In reference to
the houses, "they were set either
on a rubble masonry foundation
or piers of rubble masonry which
replaced the original hardwood
posts that had rotted. Cooking
was done on coal pots outside,
but each house also had an out-
door oven with a chimney for
baking." Another type of house
Woods mentioned was the '"on-

grow." These houses were in
long rows some 100-feet long.
Inside the house, each family
lived in one room or unit.
The oven and bathroom of
these houses were located outside
in the yard where each family
shared the facilities. The cistern
or well in the yard was also
shared by families. Woods stated
that "the longrows varied in
length from a three family unit to
a 10 or 11 family commune. Sev-
eral longrows were usually
placed around a large yard called
the "big yard" which served as a
center for social activities."
The Rastafari Dynasty store
on 38 Prindesste Gade across
from of Sts. Peter and Paul High
School, Is a good example of a
longrow structure. Today, this
longrow is converted into small
stores. According to Woods, this
plot of land was brought by
James Wright in 1809 who more
than likely built the structure.
In 1864, this property was
purchased by Carl Frederick
Dohne. Then, the property
changed hands again in bthe
1900s. It was brought by Daniel
Leydas. Today, the property
remains in the bands of the Ley-
das family.


The third type of historical
structure house in Savan was the
vernacular architecture small two
story houses.
Woods explained, "some of
these were constructed entirely of
wood but quite a few had a first
floor of rubble masonry, plas-
tered with the second floor made
of wood. Characteristics of a
large number was the overhang
of the second floor providing a
covered walkway on the side of
the building. A few of these
houses had galleries made of
wood with a fretwork deign."
A good example of this type
of house is at Borge Oade-ao. 6
near the south western section of
the Jewish Cemetery ina Savans.
This house was built In 1828.
Father Louis do Buggenoms, a
Roman Catholic priest, purchased
the property and gave it as a gift
to the church in 1873.

The building served as a
Catholic Hospital until it closed
in the 1890s. Marie Cid bought
the building in 1924 and sold it
in 1936 to Joseph Sephir. Today.
this historical building, like so
many other buildings in Savan, is
in terrible condition. Savan is a
place of history and architectural
Woods said it well when she
stated, "Here is an area that that
was occupied almost exclusively
by black people with homes built
by those black people displaying
the examples of excellent crafts-
manship, and yet the advocates of
preserving our culture have com-
pletely overlooked it."
The history of people of
African descent in Savan is steep
in the architectural design of its
buildings. St. Thomas talks about
its tourist destiny in the
Caribbean and yet willfully left
out such historic places as Savan.
BEven the Jewish Cometery in
Savan will bring in thousands of
tourists In the area. You see. if
we are serious about Savan, then
we will preserve and restore its
architectural glory.
The ecology of Savan is also
Important to the culture of the
area. The deJoogh got in back of

Savan town has the potential as
an eco-iourist destiny. Trails can
be developed in the gut environ-
ment whereby visitors and locals
especially school children can
learn about the different types of
trees and their usage of long ago.
Trees like maubi bark and
other trees once used for tradi-
tional medicine by savancros as
well as for building houses in
Savan still exists today.
This area can be created as a
nature preserve where It can help
the Savan economy. There are so
many things one can see and
learn in the deJongh gut environ-
ment if developed properly.
The Caledonia rain forest on
St. Croix is used by school
groups and tourists alike. Why
not deJongh gut? You St. Thomi-
ans are lucky I live on St. Crox
and not on St. Thomas because I
would surely use the deJongh gut
for educational purposes.
This article reflects the view
of Olsee Davis, a St. CroLx ecol-
ogist, activist and writer who has
a master of science degree In
range management and forestry

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