Danish West – West Indian Collaboration Seeks to Preserve V.I. Structures

(Originally published at OnePaper.com)

Copenhagen, Denmark: There are few incidences that are more distressing than to see a thing of beauty slip into the hands of neglect. Throughout the Caribbean and many other areas around the world, historical preservation societies strive to maintain the craftsmanship of those who designed and built classic structures. In Denmark, a group has been formed to see to the loving rejuvenation of buildings in the United States Virgin Islands. The West Indies – Danish Apprentice Initiative will seek to train, share information and maintain relationships with Virgin Islanders in a cooperative effort to beautify while staying connected.

Pictured: In need of love: V.I. structures are crumbling

The program was instituted in February 2002 with a goal toward the involvement of Danish business concerns in sending emissaries to the Virgin Islands with experience in the unique Danish architecture. These people, who will be charged with the implementation of the project, will be expected to take on young Virgin Islanders as apprentices. In addition to getting a taste of the field of architecture and structural design, these apprentices will gain valuable work experience, and may even discover an interest that leads to a career.

Completed projects will serve as showpieces of restoration methods as well as retreat areas; a large number of Danish people have family and business ties in the United States Virgin Islands even today. The Danish period of the ownership of the islands stretched from circa 1670 to the official transfer from Denmark to the United States of America in 1917. Transfer day is still commemorated in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a hallmark of hope for a new future under a new partnership.

Since the Transfer, many of the buildings that served as mills, shops, homes and civic structures have fallen into disrepair. As the emphasis of the United States was in regards to the islands’ strategic geographic location, very little attention has been paid to preserving these buildings. In addition, natural catastrophes, pollution caused by traffic, vermin infestations and ordinary wear and tear have presented a challenge to those local organizations that are actively working to preserve historic buildings.