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St. Croix Landmarks Society Photo Exhibits

Estate Whim

History of Estate Whim Museum

Excerpts from "Preserving the Legacy," continued

1998: Priscilla G. Watkins on behalf of St. Croix Landmarks Society

The office or hall features a pigeonhole desk, locally made of thibet wood, possibly made to a Danish design. It was a gift from Mrs. Elmer Pierson who purchased it at the Miles Merwin auction and was told the desk originally had been in the Great House at Hogansborg. The owner of the estate would, among other things, do his accounts here, hold interviews with his manager and overseers and complete the annual census report. In that census, he would list by name every person living at Whim: their age, religion, work assignment, place of birth, and their conduct rating. He didn't keep valuable documents in the desk, though. For that, there is an iron safe built into the wall of the east room, protection against fire and hurricane damages.

Above the desk is an etching of Johanne Tutien, an owner in the mid-19th century, whose descendants still reside on island. On the desk are small portraits of the Danish West Indies' longest serving Governor, Peter von Scholten (1827-1848), and his mistress, Anna Heegaard, a free-colored woman. Von Scholten proclaimed all Danish enslaved free after a tumultuous day of bloodless rebellion on July 3, 1848. Without doubt, nearly all of the enslaved from Whim were there to witness it. Von Scholten paid for this unauthorized proclamation with the loss of his position and a trial and condemnation in Denmark, which was later overthrown by the higher court there. On the other wall hangs a modern copy of a portrait of Christopher MacEvoy, Jr., who bought the estate in 1793, and transformed the Great House into the shape you see today. MacEvoy's young wife and two small children had died abruptly the year previous, possibly the reason Whim has but one bedroom. MacEvoy, a wealthy young man born on St. Croix, not only changed the Great House, he moved the slave quarters to the west of it, where they are still today, and built them of stone with shingle, not thatched, roofs. He vastly improved the estate before trading it in 1809. The crystal chandelier in the hall is possibly Italian, bought in New York for the room by Clayton Shoemaker of Little Princesse. A copy of the Margrethe Cup is in the comer display. This Cup honors the first female Queen of Denmark who reigned in her infant son's stead from 1375-1412. The next Queen to take the throne (600 years later) is her name sake, Margrethe II, who ascended in 1972. Whim was honored with a visit by her reigning Majesty in 1976.

In the west room, the four-post bed was owned by the much loved Danish Governor Limpricht (served 1908-1912) whose wife, at her death, bequeathed it to Inger Heyn. Mrs. Heyn's daughter, Mrs. Chester Ingvoldstad, of the Pentheny Hotel, gave the bed to Whim. Across from the bed is a mahogany commode or "Edwardian night convenience chest" for the chamber pot; note the little holder for one's candle. It was a gift from Mrs. Harry Armstrong of Grange. Nearby is a 19th century bidet, used by both men and women. A very plain 1830's armoire was probably made in the island. The chest of five drawers, made about 1830, topped with a shaving mirror with two drawers (1840), also came from the Pentheny Hotel sale. On top, is a photograph of Governor and Mrs. Limpricht. The planter's chair was made for Whim by Will Thurland one of St. Croix' few remaining expert cabinetmakers. Chairs like these were very popular with the estate owners or managers, who, after a long day of riding, needed to rest their legs awhile before their boots could be pulled off. The crystal chandelier in this room is French. If you look out the southwest window, you can see the bath room. Probably built by MacEvoy, whose mother was of French descent, because the rest of Europe was not much taken up with frequent bathing in the 18th century (where the privy was not known).

In the sitting room, the eye is taken first with the rocking chairs, all locally made in St. Croix between 1840 and 1850. Two were gifts of Victor Gilbert of Little Princesse. The child's rocker, measuring 32 inches high, was the gift of Suzanne Abel in memory of her mother, Mrs. Forrest Waldo. The mahogany round pedestal table was a gift from Mrs. Keith Merrill of Sion Hill, who also gave Whim an oil painting of the town of Christiansted viewed from Bulowe's Minde. This kind of seating arrangement was very practical. The cane seats and backs kept one cool, and the evening lamp lit up everyone's handwork or book without the extra heat individual lamps would create. On top of the desk in this room (which would have been used by the lady of the house) is a brass microscope in its mahogany case, made in England about 1800. It has six original slides. The piano, a Steinway, is kept in tune and used during our Candlelight Concerts and the annual members' Christmas Party. It was a gift of Harry Neumann and his wife Adele. The brass chandelier in this room, as well as that in the dining room, came from the Lutheran Church in Frederiksted, as a gift in memory of Frances Van Riper. Elmer Pierson paid $1,000 at the Pentheny auction for this 1870 Danish sectional sofa, once in a Royal Palace in Copenhagen, which had been brought out and used in Government House until around 1936. The courting chair was a coy way of permitting flirting and private conversations in a time when privacy was not in fashion.

In the eastern dining room, both the table and the breakfront vie for attention. The table, in the manner of Duncan Phyfe, is on two pedestals and extends to five and a half feet long. It measures 52 inches across. It was sold to the Society in 1962, by Mrs. Harry Ewe, who said it previously had belonged to the Quin Family of Company Street in Christiansted. (Be sure to visit that building, it was wonderfully restored in the 1990's and houses several shops.) The large mahogany breakfront with five drawers and three cabinets is English, circa 1800. The Thayers of Butler Bay bought it at auction in Puerto Rico, and shipped it as a gift to Government House in St. Croix. When it remained unused and unwanted, the Thayers arranged with Ron De Lugo, then Administrator, to have it turned over to the Landmarks Society.

The Danish Bing & Grondahl dinner set of 65 pieces was also a gift of the Thayers, and was once owned by Miss Lily Munster of St. Croix. The Canton export blue & white china came from three donors: Arlene Canegata, E. G. Stridiron and L. G. Kernochan. Two game tables with claw feet of the George IV period came from the William Thayers as well. Shown on those tables are two unique porcelain urns with tops, donated by Cornelia Ball. Made by Royal Copenhagen, one, 16 inches high, is dated 1780, and has a scrolled map on St. Croix on one side; the other, 11 inches high, was made in 1790. These are beautiful works, and in beautiful condition. The Butler's desk with lockable drawers for the family silver is a fine 18th century piece. Art work in this room includes portraits of two Danish kings and a painting of a Duchess in 17th century regalia. The Danish piano no longer keeps tune, but in the heyday of sugar would have been used for the lavish music and dinner parties which were regular events in the colony. Elizabeth Delaney McDonough, born at Estate Jealousy to Danish parents, married twice, gave birth to and raised five children in Whim's Great House between 1765 and 1782. It was for her children's safety the semicircular wall was installed on the north side of the house. She had among many fine furnishings, 18 mahogany dining chairs and a silver wine cellaret. Presumably she could borrow more. Elizabeth lived an opulent life. The Great House is furnished to reflect her good fortune.

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