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SAVAN RESTORATION IS NEXT 'REJUVENATE' PROJECT

Aug. 6, 2003 – The second phase of the Anti-litter and Beautification's Commission's "Scrape, Paint and Rejuvenate" program has begun with the identification of buildings for restoration in historic Savan.
"Savan as a neighborhood is especially important because it represents the vernacular architecture of St. Thomas, with a historically unique color scheme and housing features," Felipe Ayala, project coordinator, said.
Ayala and members of the St. Thomas-St. John Anti-litter and Beautification Commission conducted a tour on Wednesday to point out the designated buildings and talk about the program's present and future progress, as well as relate some interesting and heartfelt history facts:
– In the 1700s, Savan was turned into a free colored neighborhood.
– Town buildings were historically painted to create a whitewash effect, with colors such as gray and ochre.
– There are two types of traditional row houses in Savan: a larger structure, built to accommodate about 10 families, and a smaller house which is typical of most historic Savan buildings.
– There is a house in Savan with the only "double oven" on the island.
– Most of the houses retain some original features such as shutters, steps, lattices, woodwork and address plaques.
– The general building structure, called the 1½-story house, was designed to utilize the prevailing winds for cooling.
Ayala pointed out some of the better-known historic buildings on Savan, noting that many of the "blocks" of houses lead into the same courtyard: "There are four houses on Smalle Strade, for example, which overlap into a sort of courtyard," he said.
The restoration work will begin with No. 10 and 20 Gamle Gade, the house of Asneth Wells, 85, who stated that so many Savan buildings were able to withstand hurricanes and other natural occurrences because of the woodwork.
"You can notice how those rafters are made," she said. "They slide into each other … They're braced so that they never come off … It's the way things were built in 1888."
Ayala pointed out the original rubble base of each building and the small overhang above each window, known as an "eyebrow."
Also to be restored in Savan are homes on Smalle Strade, Jode Gade and Regjerrings Gade in Kronprindsens Quarter.
"These houses — the aesthetic is important," Ayala said. "The house may seem like a ruin to everyone else, but to a preservationist, there are a lot of possibilities."
He commented that there is "a common misconception that Savan is a 'rough and tough' neighborhood. That is not so … The people were warm and friendly."
But, he pointed out, "in order to do a project like this, you have to build the right relationships, get to know the people personally — and they have been happy and supportive of the project."
The St. Thomas "Scrape, Paint, and Rejuvenate" project started with the restoration of buildings on Wimmelskafts Gade (Back Street) including the painting of the Harmonic Lodge, Cuzzin's, and the adjoining building formerly known as The Ritz. (See "Back Street: The old becomes new".)
"The best thing about this endeavor is that Back Street has taken on a whole new look, and our actions have prompted other individuals to do their own private restorations," Ayala said. "We're also allowing non-historic houses to participate in this project because it cleans up and transforms the landscape."

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