Old Government House has an important place in the history and culture of the people of the British Virgin Islands. It has...
Old Government House has an important place in the history and culture of the people of the British Virgin Islands. It has always been a place of purposeful activity, hosting official functions, social gatherings and Royal visits; all of which engaged local participants.The annual garden party to celebrate the birthday of the reigning monarch entertained hundreds of citizens and residents yearly within the house and grounds and the event itself has become an institution on the calendar of social events in the British Virgin Islands. For some forty years, the party was held on the tennis court, where at other times young and old tennis enthusiasts practiced the art of the game.The house and gardens have also hosted a number of royal visitors including Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Alice in 1964, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited on two occasions, once in 1966 and again in 1977, Princess Margaret in 1972, Princess Alexandra in 1988, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1994, and Prince Andrew in 2000.Unfortunately, the materials employed during the original construction of the building in 1926 accelerated the deterioration endemic to buildings in a sub-tropical climate, hastening the mortality of the site as an official residence. The building fell into disrepair and was closed for renovations in 1996, when the Governor and his wife moved to a temporary residence on the west side of Road Harbor.A period of reflection followed during which time members of the Overseas Estates Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London pondered over the fate of Old Government House. The decision was taken to demolish the building and construct a new residence located on the old site. However, local objections demonstrated the importance of the building within the local cultural psyche and after consultation with Virgin Islanders towards the end of the millennium in late 1999, it was considered appropriate to rehabilitate Old Government House and transform it into a museum. Once significant structural repairs and a complete internal transformation (primarily conducted by volunteers) had taken place, Old Government House Museum was opened to the public late 2002 and today provides a focus of interest for people interested in Virgin Islands history and culture.