One of America’s oldest fully restored sugar and rum plantations is the subject of a book that will be available at a book signing and talk at Darvill’s Book Store on March 27 from 6-7 p.m.
The book, “Estate Mount Washington: The Discovery and Resurrection of a Lost Plantation,” was written by Anthony J. Ayer and Nancy S. Ayer, and published by Prosperity Press.
The restored plantation includes the rum factory, sugar mill, dungeon, stables, bellower and the owners’ great house, all found covered in vines and trees in the jungle on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. Destroyed by hurricanes in the 1800s, the plantation was abandoned and “lost” in the tropical growth until 1984 when the Ayers discovered the ruins.
In 1984, Anthony, who moved to St. Croix as a child with his family 70 years ago, and his wife Nancy discovered the ruins of the Mount Washington great house while exploring a large parcel of land near Frederiksted. The Ayers were part of a group of investors who bought the land. But when the Ayers discovered the ruins, they were inspired to restore, or “resurrect,” the buildings and grounds that was one of the island’s original Danish estates dating to 1750, and purchased the ruins from the other investors.
Highly sensitive to the issue of slavery, the Ayers say they went to great lengths to “tell it like it was.” They and others did extensive research using Danish Colonial records, including census reports and tax records, and other historical data to create a factual presentation of the people who lived and worked on the estate, including their jobs, religions, places of birth, mortality rates and other information.
Indeed, by 1990, when most of Estate Mount Washington’s restoration was completed, the Ayers were well ahead of today’s direction of not glossing over the slavery issue but putting it out front, as does the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, which opened in 2014, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2016.
The book includes numerous photographs of Estate Mount Washington from its initial “discovery” by the Ayers throughout the restoration, as well as extensive information about the history of the estate and its residents while under the Danish flag.