April 25, 2005 The ruins tucked back in the bush near the Bellevue Village affordable housing project on Gifft Hill Road, are just one set of many yet to be explored, archeologist Carlos Solis of the Westin, Florida-based Soltec International Inc. said Monday as the St. John Community Foundation began clearing the site.
The Community Foundation owns 2.5 acres of land adjacent to Bellevue Village. It plans to build a Civic and Cultural Center southeast of the ruins.
As part of the permit process, the Community Foundation must have an archeologist on hand in case any artifacts turn up during the clearing.
Standing on what was once the 45-foot long veranda of the Beverhoudt cotton plantation great house, Solis said so far, he's found the ruins of five smaller structures near the great house.
"Once it's all cleared we may find more. We'll take a good look," he said.
Solis said some buildings in this set of ruins were included in a 1982 survey so it's clear that people knew they were there.
He said the ruins are fragile and can be easily damaged.
The long-ago residents had a great view of St. Thomas, Fish Bay and the hillsides.
"Everything was largely denuded," Solis said of the vegetation that now blocks most of the vista.
The ruins date to the mid-1700s. Solis said historical records show they were used until the early 1800s.
While the rock foundations remain, the woven sticks called wattle and their limestone mortar foundation are long lost to the elements. However, Solis has uncovered a piece of mortar with indentations that show where the sticks once sat.
He also pointed out a gap in the rock wall that once held a support beam.
While the house may have been rustic by today's standards, St. John historian Chuck Pishko said that it had mahogany furniture and the occupants used silver utensils to eat with.
Solis said he found small pieces of artifacts while excavating the site.
"I found tin enamelware from Holland and lots of English ceramics," he said.
He said he's keeping them until the Community Foundation decides what to do with them.
Community Foundation member Mary Blazine said the organization hopes to put them on display at the Civic and Cultural Center.
She said that many St. John residents have accumulated artifacts over the years.
"I hope they will donate them," she said.
However, Pishko said that donated artifacts will have lost their provenance because their place of origin will not be known.
The Community Foundation plans to save many of the trees and plants growing in and around the ruins. Some of the trees are now keeping the rock walls from falling down.
"We're concentrating on cutting the invasive species," Blazine said.
Meanwhile Solis hopes to find the trash dump, called a midden in archeological terms. He says it may contain artifacts that will unveil more secrets about the people who once lived there.
Some of St. John's more modern residents have left behind their own trash. The path into the ruins is strewn with Heineken bottles, a rolled up living-room-sized rug, boards, and all manner of garbage.
If you'd like to volunteer to help with this project, call the Community Foundation at 693-9410.
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