Groups Explore St. Croix’s Heritage at Estate Whim Museum

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Estate Whim Museum, St. Croix
Estate Whim Museum, St. Croix

The Estate Whim Museum tells the tales of St. Croix’s past through rare artifacts, maps, photographs and 18th century plantation buildings that seem to inhale and exhale with their surroundings. As one of three museums in St. Croix under the protective wing of the St. Croix Landmarks Society, the property offers groups an incredibly comprehensive portrait of colonial St. Croix.

“There’s more to our story than beautiful buildings,” announces the society’s executive director, Sonia Jacobs Dow, shortly after our arrival. Still, after a short background on Crucian history, including a quick tutorial on Who Bin Sen Yoh, and other coded melodies of cariso brought to the island during the slave trade, our group gradually splinters off to explore the Great House, windmill and sugar factory.

The 12-acre museum is a community treasure trove of Caribbean genealogical records, with over 80,000 images still waiting to be processed. Ten acres of lawn space is available to planners, with exhibit halls, banquet tables, torches for walkways, picnic tables, tents and P.A. systems as convenient rental options. Guided tours covering all or just specific areas of the property can be arranged, with a large repertoire of events, including Candlelit Classical Concerts for up to 110 guests, frequently being held in the Great House. “Our goal is to help people connect with their stories,” Dow explains. I’m taken in by photographs of early Crucian musicians who used everyday items like kerosene pans and tail pipes to make quelbe, the authentic music of St. Croix.

“We take what we have and put it to the uses that we need them,” Dow says, and I notice for the first time that I’m the only person in our group still perusing through the Exhibition Hall. Dow mentions that she sees groups who visit the estate as potential ambassadors of not only the Estate Whim story, but the story of the many ethnic groups who made St. Croix what it is today.

“Good history, bad history…it’s our history,” she says.

For her own part, Dow is the first black person to ever serve as executive director of the St. Croix Landmark Society, which has operated on the island for over 60 years.

I enter the rotunda-style area of the Great House with Dow and a few other stragglers to glowing chandeliers lit by slow burning candles, and the welcoming aroma of slow-roasted Cornish hen and Johnnycakes. After a quick tour of what can only be described as a garden of antiques in the Great House—from a Danish piano used to entertain dinner guests during the heyday of sugar to the society’s oldest relic, a black 17th century English wainscot armchair—we gather around tables for an elegant dinner in the dining room; the theme “What do we owe the people who came before us?” as equally prevalent in our conversations as how the property could be leveraged for meetings and events.

Groups can cook in the kitchen with Granny, peruse antiques at the antique auction and fair and be immersed in a Crucian fusion concert under the stars featuring quelbe and jazz. Roll up your sleeves and dig in types will find numerous on-site projects such as crop harvesting and building maintenance. Whether in need of a CSR initiative or a dash of local authenticity, planners can rest assured that there is always something going on at the Estate Whim Museum.

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