Sept. 21, 2008 — When Sean L. Krigger strolls down Charlotte Amalie's streets, it's the 18th century, and the town's historic buildings are alive with stories to tell. Important stories.
The young architectural historian and senior planner for the V.I. State Historic Preservation Office has never doubted his calling.
"Really and truly, since I was five years old, I knew I was going to be an architect," he says. "In kindergarten we had an assignment to cut out shapes. I drew an arch. A few days before that, we'd had a site visit, and I remembered the shape — it was like an image planted in my mind."
Krigger smiles recalling the incident, "I knew an architect was the person who built things. I'm sure I couldn't have pronounced it, but I can assure you, I knew what I wanted to do."
His family encouraged his passion. "My grandmother Dede, Lillian Cruz, would always buy me architectural books," he says. "As I grew up, after I'd visited someone's home, I'd go home and recreate their floor plan."
Krigger is a tall, slender man with inquisitive brown eyes in a sculptured face. He looks like he could step on a stage and hold his audience in one hand.
He has a slow smile. He is serious when he talks about his passion. "My sense of design is a gift from God," he says. "It is a divine gift, and I treat it as a gift. My relationship with God strengthens me and helps me focus. Through it I am able to use my skills as an architect."
Krigger's allegiance to his home is the territory's gift. After graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1990, he attended the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York, graduating in 1995 with a bachelor of arts.
"When I went away to school," Krigger says, "what struck me is that the V.I. is a beautiful place with wonderful assets. I saw things on the mainland we could use. It was no different from our town. I traveled in the New York area and in Manhattan. We all have historical features. I knew I could come back home and make a difference.
"We could be doing so much more in our neighborhoods," he says. "Our towns — Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Frederiksted — are vibrant, beautiful centers, they should be lived in.
"We need a sense of place," he says. "My grandmother Sula (the 106-year-old Ursula Krigger, recently honored on Grandparents Day) taught me about our connections to the past, about our rich history. She taught for years in the Moravian Church school when it was on Back Street."
There's hardly a building in the historic district unknown to Krigger. Offhand, he offers a bit on the recently renovated Public Finance Authority office on Government Hill: "Oh," he says, "Up to about 1820, it was a private residence, and then it was used by the Hamburg American Line. It has a mahogany staircase one of their captains transported from the ship. It was taken over by the U.S. Navy, and that's how it got its name, Quarters B."
He slows to trace a bit of his own history. "When I was in school, I spent two summers interning under Myron Jackson and Claudette Lewis at the Historic Preservation office," he says. "After I graduated, I went to work there, and then I worked for William Karr architects, but after three years, it was time to leave. I wanted to give back to the community, and three years to the day I left the preservation office, I returned."
We are, in fact, ensconced in history as we chat. "This building is the old Knud Hansen family home," Krigger says. "We are sitting in Dr. Hansen's office. The building fell on hard times. It was called 'hippie haven' at one point, then it was a dance school, and then the Lt. Governor's office. We moved in around 1998. It's privately owned, but we'd love to buy it."
Meantime, Krigger is living two lives, which he sees as the best of all possible worlds. By day he applies his skills to helping the community. Right now, he is up to his historical whiskers with the Fort Christian renovation. (See: "Ring the Bells: Fort Christian Chimes Coming Back.")
After work, he applies those skills to his own creation, a storm damaged 1940s home on Blackbeard's Hill he bought in 2005.
"It's lots of work, surely a labor of love," he says. "It's my own lab. I help with the construction. And it's in the historic district, so I have to comply with all our laws. I'll give it a different spin when the top gets on. It has a gabled roof at one end and a hip roof at the other."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.