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Old Diamond School Renovations Nearing Completion

Sept 20, 2006 — In an effort by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to develop St. Croix into an "internationally recognized visitor destination," the Old Diamond School is getting much more than just a coat of new paint.
The building is just one facet of a $15 million program funded by the Public Finance Authority (PFA) to restore historical buildings around St. Croix.
Located at No. 1 Estate Diamond at the corner of West Airport Road and Queen Mary Highway, the building is currently owned by the Department of Property and Procurement, which leased the property to Boy Scouts of America.
According to PFA Senior Project Coordinator Brian Turnbull, the Boy Scouts were unable to take possession of the property for numerous structural reasons.
"The property needed interior and exterior renovations," said Turnbull, adding that the building was riddled with asbestos and the walls were contaminated with lead-based paint.
Currently under construction, the building is a shell of the original design. Workers are restoring the foundation, walls and roof. Inside the building, scaffolding, open paint cans and ladders attest to the work under way. The peach-colored building is outfitted with large arched doorways and windows and a galvanized roof.
The Diamond building was originally designed as a school for enslaved children. Built in 1841, the school was the brainchild of Danish West Indies Gov. Gen. Peter von Scholten. One of eight schools to be erected around the island at the time, the Diamond School employed Moravian teachers with a Lutheran minister as head of the school board.
According to a newsletter produced by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, planters of the island were required to participate in the building of the schools. The newsletter, which is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical and archaeological heritage of the Virgin Islands, goes on to state that each planter was "required to supply quarried stones, enslaved workers, oxen and carts for the construction of the districts school."
Chalgub/Lanio Architects Inc., along with Systems Engineering Construction, has taken on the challenge of restoring the 100-year-old-plus building. According to Turnbull, the project is nearing completion.
Other historic preservation projects completed or under way include Althalie Mcfarlane Petersen Library, the Danish school on Prince Street, Ingerborg Nesbitt Clinic, Estate Sion Farm Greathouse, the Education and Labor buildings at Barracks Yard, Delta M. Dorsch Cultural Center and the Frederiksted Fish Market.
Once the Diamond School restoration is completed, the Boy Scouts will be ready to move in. According to Turnbull, projects like this one will aid in "restoring V.I. heritage to reflect time past."
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