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St. Croix’s Hamilton Family Estate Anticipates Opening to the Public

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A landmark estate linked to Alexander Hamilton’s family is on the cusp of opening its doors to the public after a lengthy period of restricted access. The Estate Grange in St. Croix, a substantial property once held by Hamilton’s aunt and uncle, the Brattons, may welcome visitors following the approval of a zoning change.

Owners Steve and Young Baker, who acquired the 26-acre parcel in 2021, aim to transition the space into a public treasure. The Bakers, moved by the history surrounding their home, wish to share the legacy of the land, including the house and its historical artifacts, with the community. They have shifted their residence to facilitate this change, eager to host events at the great house. The site also bears personal significance as the final resting place of Hamilton’s mother.

The Bakers’ proposal has ignited local interest, with Senator Novelle Francis expressing a note of regret that the government did not secure the estate for its historical value. The development plan, presented to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, outlines a two-phase transformation. The initial phase involves staffing up and opening the greenhouse for event hire. The subsequent phase aims to explore sustainable practices, including the integration of solar and wind power, and to foster agricultural initiatives, as detailed by DPNR’s Leia LaPlace-Matthew.

The estate’s current R1 zoning presents limitations, prompting discussions on suitable adjustments to facilitate the Bakers’ vision. Despite zoning challenges, public sentiment has been favorable, with support demonstrated through letters and hearings. The Bakers aspire to build an economic hub, capitalizing on local labor to produce goods that benefit St. Croix, while preserving the site’s heritage.

Sericore VI, Steve Baker’s enterprise that manufactures emergency response devices, is funding the project. The business plans to expand to St. Croix, including the assembly of affordable solar and wind power kits, potentially creating lucrative employment opportunities on the island.

The project’s timeline spans eight years, with an agricultural system utilizing aquaponics towers slated as the first objective. This excludes cannabis cultivation due to Baker’s government contracts. Accommodations for visitors and a creative live-work space are also in the pipeline, spread out across the lush estate to maintain its green landscape.

In preparation, archaeological surveys are set to be conducted by the University of Tulsa, ensuring the preservation of the site’s history. This action reflects the collaborative efforts with the territory’s State Historic Preservation Office. Lawmakers have shown a positive stance towards the proposal, with several indicating their intent to vote in favor of the project.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Baker reiterated his commitment to honoring and elevating the estate’s cultural significance through sustainable and commercial efforts, ensuring that this piece of Virgin Islands heritage prospers for future generations.

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New Guidelines for Event Signage at Fort Christian Announced

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Fort Christian, the iconic structure in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, will now see its event organizers navigating a new requirement: obtaining approval from the Historical Preservation Committee for any signage to be displayed on the premises. This directive stems from an initiative by the Division of Libraries, the fort’s overseeing body, aiming to maintain the integrity of this historical site.

At a recent meeting, the STT-STJ Historical Preservation Committee, led by Chair Akil Petersen, reviewed applications for signage at upcoming events. Among these was Melvin Romney’s submission for Fort Fete Virgin Islands, an event heralding the start of the St. Thomas Carnival season. Romney’s plan involves non-invasive methods to affix signs, ensuring the fort’s structure remains unaltered.

The committee’s discussion revealed a diversity of views. While the idea of utilizing the fort for public celebrations received support, Sean Krigger, director of the State Historical Preservation Office, expressed concerns over potential impacts on the fort’s ancient fabric. He noted new cracks in the building’s structure and urged caution regarding noise levels, given their potential effects on the historic edifice.

Despite these worries, Romney highlighted the careful considerations made in previous years regarding sound levels and the post-event condition of the fort, ensuring no harm comes to the historic site. He emphasized the cultural respect shown in event themes, like the previous year’s madras theme and the current year’s hibiscus inspiration.

Kurt Marsh, another committee member, raised concerns about the structural integrity of historic buildings like Fort Christian, especially in the face of large-scale events. He stressed the importance of maintaining these structures, which the Virgin Islands government has historically neglected, and the need for intentional space reclamation.

The committee approved Romney’s application, as well as another for a dancehall party, emphasizing the delicate balance between supporting local entrepreneurs and preserving historical sites. Suggestions for regular monitoring of the building’s condition, especially in light of events featuring bass-heavy music, were made to ensure ongoing preservation efforts.

This new oversight by the Historical Preservation Committee underscores a commitment to protecting the cultural heritage of Fort Christian while accommodating community events, a balance vital for the preservation and vibrant use of historic spaces in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Celebrating Dominican Independence with Vibrant Festivities in St. Croix

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The vibrant celebration of the Dominican Republic’s 180th independence anniversary, traditionally marked on February 27, found a jubilant expression in St. Croix this Sunday, February 26. This year’s event, the 15th of its kind on the island, was a colorful testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic, featuring traditional attire, music, and an array of significant traditions from the DR, alongside a demonstration of the community’s increasing economic influence.

Kicking off at the historic Basin Triangle in Christiansted, the parade made its way to Canegata Ballpark. The event culminated in a festive ceremony attended by dignitaries and community members alike, with local vendors offering a taste of Dominican cuisine and culture. The parade showcased an array of cultural expressions, from traditional masquerade costumes and local majorette performances to bikers and bands, drawing together a wide spectrum of the community.

The Dominican community’s presence in St. Croix is not just a cultural showcase but a burgeoning economic force. Dominicans have been instrumental in diversifying the business landscape of the USVI, making significant contributions to sectors such as construction, food and beverage, and beauty, and holding influential positions within the government.

Senator Samuel Carrion, proud of his Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage, highlighted the Dominican community’s integral role in the economic and cultural fabric of the Virgin Islands. “The Virgin Islands is a melting pot, and St. Croix, in particular, is enriched by the diversity of Caribbean cultures and beyond,” he observed. The senator eloquently traced the historical ties and migrations between the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, underscoring the interconnectedness and shared heritage that bind these communities together.

“The celebration of Dominican Independence Day here is a vibrant affirmation of our shared Caribbean identity, showcasing the ways in which Dominican traditions and contributions have become woven into the fabric of Virgin Islander society,” Carrion added, acknowledging the hardworking Dominican entrepreneurs and community members who enrich the islands’ social and economic landscape.

Bion Lorenzo, President of the DR Independence Celebration Committee, spoke to the growing influence of the Dominican community, not only in business but also in the fabric of family and societal integration within the USVI. He projected a future where the voices of Virgin Islanders with Dominican ancestry will increasingly resonate in the territory’s democratic processes.

Senator Kenneth Gittens expressed his admiration and support for the Dominican community, noting their vital contribution to the cultural and economic vitality of the Virgin Islands. “As we celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our community, the Dominican Republic’s independence anniversary is a joyous occasion that underscores our collective heritage and the bonds of friendship and unity that we cherish,” Gittens remarked, looking forward to celebrating VI-PR Friendship Day later in the year with the same spirit of inclusivity and community.

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Na’Zirah Armstrong Triumphs as 2023-2024 Miss St. Croix in Dazzling Pageant Display

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The St. Croix Festival Queen Pageant concluded on Thursday night with a stunning victory for Na’Zirah Armstrong, who was crowned Miss St. Croix for 2023-2024. Demonstrating exceptional poise and grace, Armstrong emerged as the frontrunner in a field of highly talented contestants, ultimately clinching the title.

This event, building on the excitement of the junior royalty crowning earlier in the week, featured four aspiring queens. Each contestant displayed remarkable elegance, skill, and dedication in their pursuit of the crown.

The pageant commenced with a pre-event interview at Government House and progressed to the eagerly anticipated swimsuit round. The segment showcased diverse styles: Tyler Valmont donned a striking pink bejeweled monokini, Chantelle Esprit shone in a purple and teal bedazzled suit, Armstrong impressed with her blue cutout swimsuit adorned with a shimmering geometric pattern, and Alayah Phipps presented a sophisticated monochrome purple suit with sparkling diamanté details.

The ambassadorial platform speeches were a highlight, with contestants delving into the rich cultural heritage of the territory. Valmont, in a conch shell pink attire with VI madras highlights, addressed the importance of preserving heritage amidst gentrification. Esprit, wearing a sophisticated purple dress, proposed enhancing St. Croix’s appeal through local cuisine and cultural activities.

Armstrong, elegantly attired in a red dress with madras trim, passionately spoke about fostering cultural awareness and artistic involvement among adolescents. Phipps, in a white and madras-trimmed dress, focused on educational reforms and youth engagement in cultural preservation.

In addition to the cultural wear, talent, and evening wear segments, the event was graced by appearances from the newly crowned St. Croix Festival Duke & Duchess. The contestants faced an on-stage Q&A session, where Valmont reflected on advice for her younger self, Esprit tackled the issue of domestic violence prevention, Armstrong emphasized the uniqueness of St. Croix’s culture, and Phipps advocated for promoting cultural events.

The competition culminated in the crowning moment, with Shantalle Espirit taking fourth place, Tyler Valmont achieving third, Alayah Phipps as the first runner-up, and Na’Zirah Armstrong being adorned with the Miss St. Croix 2023-2024 crown, marking a memorable end to a night filled with pageantry and cultural celebration.

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