Exploring Cayman’s tourist attractions
The next step on our tour enjoying Cayman’s tourist attractions is the stately home of Pedro St James
Pedro St James is always on any visitor’s list as a must-see when visiting the Cayman Islands, but local residents will get a great deal out of the experience as well, as there is a ton of things to see, do and learn about at this prestigious site.
Located in Savannah high above the sea and commanding spectacular views, Pedro St James’ main attraction is the historic Great House, which sits grandly among well designed gardens and rolling lawns. The house itself is a brilliant glimpse into times gone by in the Cayman Islands, having been meticulously restored since it was first built in 1780 by a wealthy English man, William Eden, using slave labour from Jamaica. The house has undergone many transformations over the years, having once been a private home, converted into a castle-like structure (hence some people may refer to it as Pedro’s Castle) and finally having been bought by the Government in the 1990s and restored to its former 18th century glory.
History comes to life
The house is built over three storeys, each one telling a tale of times gone by. Downstairs sees the dining area where the original Eden family would have dined, fed by meals cooked in the thatch-covered caboose, a separate kitchen structure favoured by homes of that time. Upstairs the grandeur of the property becomes apparent, with sleek mahogany verandas, rocking chairs strategically placed to enjoy the view and living spaces set up as they would have been hundreds of years ago.
The house is historically significant for the people of the Cayman Islands because it was here, on the thick stones steps that form part of the original 18th century house (making it the oldest surviving stone structure in Cayman), that the Proclamation of Emancipation abolishing slavery was read in 1835. Called the ‘birthplace of democracy in the Cayman islands’, Pedro St James was also the location, in 1831, where Caymanians made the decision to form an elected legislature. The house also housed a jail and that rather sinister space is also successfully recreated in the bowels of the property.
In addition to the house itself, there’s a 3D multi-sensory theatre that has regular viewings of the history of the property, which helps you understand the history of Cayman as a whole and should definitely be experienced. Here you learn about the islands and the tough lives led by early settlers, the development of the house and the terrible storm of 1932, along with the tragic tale that came about as a result of that hurricane. The tale is heightened by the 3D aspect of the experience (which I won’t give away in this article – you will have to experience it for yourself!).
There’s also an Ivan memorial to view, a modern monument to the most terrible hurricane to impact the Cayman Islands this century, which took place in 2004.
The site also houses a great café called Café Pedro where you can taste local specialities such as Turtle Stew, Cayman-style Beef, and Cassava Cake, and an interesting little gift shop where you can pick up your souvenir of the experience.
One other interesting structure at the site is the Watler House, now the headquarters of Cayman’s Visual Arts Society. This building also has an interesting history, a unique building made out of wattle and daub, a very early method of construction in Cayman, having been built in the early 1900s in Savannah. It was eventually bought by Government and moved to its present site in the Pedro St James grounds and now plays host to art shows, exhibitions and art classes.
Nowadays the entire site is the location for all sorts of events, such as the annual family-focused Cocofest afternoon celebrating all things coconut, as well as Spookfest, when the house and grounds were transformed into a Halloween party for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a great location for destination weddings and other parties and events.
If you want to learn about the history of these great islands, appreciate the heritage that the location represents and enjoy the beauty of this picturesque location then Pedro St James is well worth the visit.