The Danish School
Frederiksted, US Virgin Islands
Award Type: Honor Award
Known as a tropical paradise with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, the Caribbean island of St. Croix has a rich and culturally diverse history. On the island's west coast, the town of Frederiksted, with its charming and colorful 18th century Danish Colonial architecture, is the home of St. Croix's newest treasure, the recently restored Danish School in the redesignated Arthur Able Complex. Built in 1799 as the residence of a high-ranking Danish official, the building later housed one of the first free and compulsory schools for enslaved children in the New World colonies. A pet project of the King of Denmark and the Royal Governor, the school helped pave the way for the island's emancipation in 1848.
After years of inappropriate renovations stripped the building of its classical details, the Danish School was dealt a near-fatal blow in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo left it in ruins. But now, exhaustive research and a meticulous, nearly $4 million renovation project directed by Mr. Taylor have brought the school back to its original glory. With its marble floors, cast-iron columns and rich colors fully restored, the building now houses the office of the governor, while an adjoining kitchen has been transformed into an elegant public meeting hall. Interior walls were painstakingly recreated from research and period pattern books, and new security, accessibility and hurricane-resistance elements were masked by historically authentic features and finishes.
"Once a beacon of enlightenment, the Danish School is again a proud centerpiece of community life – and, as I saw last year, a stunning example of preservation at its best," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "With the extraordinary leadership of Governor John P. deJongh, the people of St. Croix would not let their landmark die, and the result is a culturally rich and well-preserved Caribbean beauty."
Along with architect William Anglin Taylor, AIA, co-recipients honored for the restoration of the Danish School are: Governor of the Virgin Islands, the Honorable John P. deJongh, Jr.; St. Croix Landmark Society; The Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority; Dion Construction; and Our Town Frederiksted.
Mr. Taylor received his first Preservation Honor Award in 2004 for the restoration of the St. Thomas Synagogue, which is the second oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States.