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HomeNewsLocal newsEstate Grange Owners Petition Zoning Change to Open Great House to Public

Estate Grange Owners Petition Zoning Change to Open Great House to Public

The new owners of Estate Grange are seeking a zoning change to open for events at the great house and grounds where Alexander Hamilton’s mother may be buried.

The open space below the great house may contain the remains of Rachel Fawcett, Alexander Hamilton’s mother. (Susan Ellis photo)

On Monday, Steve and Young Baker appeared before the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources in a virtual public hearing to request rezoning Plot 9A and Parcel 10 Estate Grange, Company Quarter from R-1 (residential low-density) to R-3 (residential medium-density).

Steve Baker, an electrical engineer and business developer with Salt River Equity LLC DBA Sericore, said he currently works in the great house but wants to add three or four employees and then 10-20 more as they develop solar, wind technology and agriculture programs on the property.

Baker said the great house and five structures could be made livable, as well as some of the ruins in the village. They want to rent the great house for public and private events and weddings. Eventually, he said they will renovate other buildings on the property for short-term and long-term rentals. None of the property will be sold, he emphasized.

“The draw was historical. That’s why we bought it in the first place,” Baker said. “We have no plans to modify any existing structures.”

The Estate Grange Great House, is being proposed as a special events location. The surrounding grounds are thought to be the burial site of Rachel Fawcett, Alexander Hamilton’s mother. (Susan Ellis photo)

Specifically, Baker said the rezoning first will allow additional employees to work on the property and then they will repair the great house and improve the surrounding gardens. The second phase will include storing equipment and machinery to test energy options to grow climate-controlled produce.

“We wouldn’t be able to survive very long drawing WAPA power at whatever rate it is,“ he said.

There are no plans to install a swimming pool and water is supplied by wells and cisterns, according to the land owner.

Also, long-term agriculture experiments and plantings will include greens that can be sold at a farm stand on the Queen Mary highway, west of the Tennis Club of St. Croix.

The 26 acres include a great house, overseer’s house, what might have been a stable and a village of about 150 people, according to historian George Tyson.

Originally, the property was a sugar plantation and then used for botanical experiments for the king of Denmark. Most recently, it was occupied and owned by the Armstrong family. Baker told members of the Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Empty lots border the property on two sides, with the tennis club and the Youth Rehabilitation Center on the other two boundaries.

David Brewer, the senior architect for the State Preservation Office, said a cultural resource survey will be necessary for the entire 26 acres to locate any historic and prehistoric locations.

“We need to know what’s in the ground and what’s on the ground,” he said.

Tyson spoke of his concerns about developing the property while preserving historic remains. He said it is important to investigate the lives and circumstances of the people who lived there and preserve the structures.

“My concern is for the impacts we can’t predict right now,” he said.

Sean Krigger, president of the State Historic Preservation Office, said limitations, including earth movement, have been discussed with the Bakers and will be included in the record. Otherwise, the organization has no objection to the zoning change request. Since the land is a National Historic Site, the proposed changes must also be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission, he added.

DPNR will accept public comments until the end of the month and then a report will be prepared to reflect approval, denial or moderation of the zoning change application. Comments can be emailed to leia.laplace@dpnr.vi.gov by Aug. 31.


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