The St Lucia National Trust is celebrating the acquisition of what was once Pointe du Cap. On March 23 a handing over ceremony was held on the summit of the premises at Cap Estate now called Morne Pavillion.
Trust director Bishnu Tulsie expressed his pleasure that this nature reserve and historic site is now in the possession of the people of St Lucia. After almost eight years of dealing with legal, governmental, tax and other significant issues, the 22-acre property was transferred from the donor, Mr Christopher Lutz of Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA) to The Nature Conservancy based in Washington, DC and then transferred to the Trust.
On the ceremony leaflet was a brief history of Morne Pavillion written by historian Robert Devaux. It read: “Cap Estate was one of the earliest estates in Saint Lucia to be established on a relatively organized basis. This was largely due to the fact that a wealthy Frenchman who came to Saint Lucia in 1744 as Civil Commandant owned it. His name was Baron de Longueville. Prior to this, the area of Cap Estate was a magnificent wilderness of gently rolling hills covered with lush xerophytic vegetation. Apparently there was little or no human interference other than a track from the beach on the northwest coast, which led up to a small clearing on the western spur of Morne du Cap. Pirates from nearby Pigeon Island probably used this hill as a lookout to observe the movements of ships traveling through the St Lucia Channel and the Pigeon Island Channel.
“As Governor of Saint Lucia, Baron de Longueville’s residence at Cap Estate became the official residence, and his official flag was flown from the hilltop above his residence. This gave rise to the name Morne Pavillon or the Pavilion. Even today, the Governor General’s residence or Government House is still referred to as the Pavillon. This name generally refers to the place next to the Governor’s residence from where the National Flag is flown.”
De Longueville had developed a flourishing cotton estate and an important center of activity in the north of the island. The bay of Becune was developed into a busy shipping port with a landing jetty made of large boulders verified by the Saint Lucia Sub-aqua Dive Club, under the guidance of Robert Devaux, then Director of the Saint Lucia National Trust. Anse Becune was the only safe, sheltered bay north of Carénage. This commercial activity gave birth to the little community of Gros Islet. Evidence of considerable shipping activities in the bay of Becune was brought to light with the assistance of the Saint Lucia Dive Club and several Eighteenth Century anchors were recovered, under the supervision of the Trust for display at Pigeon Island.
“During the Second World War, German U-Boats attacked several Caribbean ports including Port Castries. Martinique and other French Colonies were under the Vichy Government, and the US Naval Air Station at Reduit needed Military protection. Morne Pavillon on Cap Estate was selected for a Coastal Battery manned by the US Army, mainly to keep a watchful eye on nearby Martinique. The Camp became fully operational in early 1943. Two 155mm cannons on Panama mounts were installed on the western spur of Morne du Cap known as Morne Pavilion, with a compliment of 150 artillerymen.”
There have been several key players in the eight year challenge to donate Morne Pavillion to the Trust. Geoff Jennings Clark along with Rip and Julie Van Camp and Robert Devaux were recognized for their unwavering dedication to seeing the project to fruition.
The Trust announced that soon Morne Pavillion will be opened to the public complete with a hiking trail for the visitors to explore the wonders the property holds.