St Lucia’s Fond Doux Estate plays its part in the conservation of St Lucia’s Architectural Heritage. Revealing itself to spectacular effect, off an unassuming tropical pathway flanked by Heliconia and Anthurium Lily flowers, is Villa Angelina, an eighteenth century colonial home at Fond Doux Plantation Hotel in St Lucia. The several hundred year old building is a typical example of the French colonial style which once was visible all over the island.
Villa Angelina is a triumph of conservation. Originally erected in the capital of Castries on Waterworks Road, it served as home to a St Lucian family. Mercifully, the home was spared the ravages of the devastating Castries fire of 1949 that took with it much of the largely wooden heritage of the town. Villa Angelina survived that fire only to fall into eventual neglect. News of its imminent demolition in 2006 reached Fond Doux’s owner’s who had themselves refurbished the Fond Doux Plantation homestead several years earlier. They purchased the home and quickly assembled a team to dismantle, transport and re-erect in Soufriere on the family estate.
Villa Angelina pays homage to an architectural period which married aesthetic to function. The villa stands two stories tall with a prominent dormer trimmed with intricate fretwork colloquially known as gingerbread. Louvered shutters frame the windows and doors and a long veranda extends out into the lush Fond Doux garden. As whimsical and attractive as the design is, the building is infinitely functional, making the most of air flow and light, maintaining cool in the hottest weather and protecting from the elements, the most menacing of which are the howling hurricanes of the months from June to November every year. The local hardwood used in construction is remarkably resistant and the Villa survived the delicate process of relocation with 90% of the original structure intact.
The conservation method was painstaking, recalls Fond Doux owner Eroline Lamontagne. “We had to do a major clean up first; the building was derelict and had been occupied by squatters. Then we had to label everything, organise it in panels, dismantle it in order and then erect it in that order down here.” Her husband Leton was in charge of the operation. “Leton knew the procedure from working with Lord Glenconner.” Lord Glenconner, Colin Tennant, has had a long association with St Lucia and Soufriere and had himself gone to great extents to re-locate and reconstruct both traditional St Lucian buildings and structures from as far flung as the Indian sub-continent.
The Lamontagnes decided to reconfigure the former four room home to a two room abode. The first floor now serves as the living space, the second floor as a master bedroom. In the tradition of French colonial homes, the kitchen and bathroom are separate structures and their design was based on the layout of the Fond Doux Estate home. The final result is that the newly relocated Villa Angelina, framed by the verdant Fond Doux gardens, stands as though it had always been there.