By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Minister for Natural Resources Vincent Wheatley said talks are underway to acquire and restore Fort Purcell.
The 17th-century fort, more commonly known as the Dungeon because of its underground cell, was once home to a garrison of soldiers who protected the island from intruders.
Today, overrun with bushes, the remnants of the old fort sits on 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the sea along the main road in Havers on Tortola.
“We want to expand the tourism product of the BVI. The Dungeon has a lot of historical significance, and we wanted to acquire the Dungeon to add to our tourism product,” Wheatley told BVI News at the weekend.
He said the owners, Old Fort Ltd, are willing to negotiate with government and the process is now in its infancy stage.
“Apart from the one building that you see, a lot of the buildings were blown down after the hurricane. So we are going to try to hire a historian to reconstruct the entire fort,” he added.
The minister said there were once thousands of military personnel stationed there.
“It’s more than just a building,” Wheatley said, adding that more information will be made available in the coming weeks.
Pleased by the news
In the meantime, cultural activist and former Speaker of the House Reuben Vanterpool told BVI News that he is pleased by the news.
“My first reaction is, ‘at last!’… It has been in the making for a long time, and it was talked about, as far as I know, decades ago. It is one of the bigger ruins we have, and it has a lot of possibilities, and it is recognized that there is much potential for preservation of history, which would be something beneficial to us.”
However, Vanterpool said he wants ruins like the Dungeon and William Thornton House in Sea Cows Bay not only to be restored but to also to be functional.
“Our concept of restoration has been, so far, just to put bricks and mortar together to put it back how it was. But, I want us to go a step further to the function of the place, how it functioned before, to give the visitor a good picture of how it used to be,” he said.
The late William Thornton was born at the Pleasant Valley House and later became the architect to prepare designs for the US Capitol.
When asked about the possibility of acquiring this property, Minister Wheatley said: “All those we would like to add to our tourism inventory, but there are land ownership issues.”
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