The Present Past
The Present Past
The Design Legacy of Laborers’ Housing in the Landscape of Vernacular Architecture on Nevis
The dwellings of enslaved laborers toiling on the sugar estates in the British colony of Nevis were fragile in character and perishable in construction. Unlike more robust plantation housing found on other islands, of wattle-and-daub or masonry, the homes on Nevis for enslaved workers consisted mainly of wood-plank. They were single-room structures with thatched roofs, propped up on stacked dry-stone platforms. Plantation maps from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries consistently portray such modest huts clustered in semi-orderly rows on estate property. Yet, as ephemeral as they were, they have not vanished entirely from the landscape. The archaeological footprints of these humble homes can be traced in the outlines of piled stone foundations, charcoal deposits, and scattered domestic artifacts. Furthermore, the style slowly transitioned into a vernacular form lasting post-emancipation into the early twentieth century, and it forms the basis of present vernacular architecture observable on the Nevisian landscape. This chapter will detail the archaeological evidence for traditional labor houses and trace how the architectural style likely evolved into a current vernacular form.
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