March 24, 2009 — Frenchtown lost a bit of its rich history Tuesday afternoon when a fire destroyed the former home of local legend Gustave Quetel.
Neighbors gathered around the two fire trucks on the street afterwards, lamenting the loss of a landmark in the small community. The home is located at Altona 68, up the hill and across from the Frenchtown Heritage Museum.
Fire Captain Neil Berry said the fire was contained in short order. "It was a small fire," he said. "We got here in two minutes from Hotel Company downtown."
The structure had had cement block rooms added on since Quetel's time, which remained standing. Berry said he had no idea of the cause of the fire. The home was unoccupied.
Debate centered on the age of the home, which is anywhere from 70 to 100 years old, depending on whom you ask. "It's one of our oldest buildings," said Frenchtown resident Leon Danet.
Most affected by the home's demise was Quetel's grandson, Jean Greaux, now Government House spokesman.
"It was a sad moment for me when I was informed of the fire at the home of my grandparents," Greaux said late Tuesday. "The home of Gus and Nulcia was the central meeting place for our family. It was the after-school gathering place for so many of my cousins."
Gus Quetel was a Frenchtown legend. The fish house at the waterside is named for him.
Greaux recalled, "I have vivid memories of watching my grandfather build his fish traps in the front yard, take in his favorite Yankees baseball games on radio and sit in front of his television, at times arguing with my grandmother about wrestling matches on TV. And over the years, many of us just stood on the porch of that little house in Frenchtown and enjoyed the beautiful view of the St. Thomas waterfront and the Charlotte Amalie harbor.
"The fire represents a personal loss for many of us," Greaux said.
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