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Historic Buildings Ask Preservation Committee Approval For Hurricane Repairs

Photos submitted to the Historic Preservation Committee show a battered Zora’s sandal store. (Screenshot of photo submitted to Historic Preservation Committee)

A safari truck rounding the corner of Norre Gade, across from Franklin D. Roosevelt Park, clipped the side of Zora’s Sandal shop recently. It was the third and most serious strike in recent memory. A fourth such impact could be real trouble for the historic St. Thomas structure, the Historic Preservation Committee heard Tuesday.

Historian Filipe Ayala, speaking for longtime shop owner Zora Galvin, said the shop and the Public Works Department have been discussing ways to protect the property. The plan presented Tuesday would include replacing doors, windows, light fixtures, and the balcony.

“This is a problem she’s been having due to cars constantly hitting it. She’s had three accidents involving the balcony,” he said. “She’ll also be installing a security system to be able to track the people who hit the building and run.”

Zora’s building was one of many the committee addressed Tuesday afternoon.

On St. John, the Emmaus Moravian Church received approval to replace its roofs, obliterated in the hurricanes of 2017. The Coral Bay structure is on the local and federal list of historical sites.

Back in Charlotte Amalie, Camille Kean sought to put the balcony back on the home her family has owned for more than 100 years. The 2017 storms took the upper balcony clean off the Catherineberg house on Garden Street and damaged the flooring. Kean was eager to restore her ancestral property.

Similar but less extensive repairs were needed to the historic synagogue, said Marilyn Blackhall of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. The second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1796, needed a swale to mitigate future storm damage, as well as roof and gutter repairs.

The committee approved all three projects, with some stipulations regarding approving future plans.

The committee also heard plans for repairs at Longsteps on Kongens Gade, the Salvation Army building on Kronprindsens Gade, and other properties in the historic district.

Architect Jon Euwema presented a three-phase, multi-year plan to upgrade the Francois Complex just up the road from Zora’s. With its sidewalk-interrupting steps abutting the street, it too has been hit by vehicles over the years, Euwema said.

The complex was originally built centuries ago as an offshoot of Fort Christian, located just to the south.

“This has been Band-Aids for 50 to 60 years. Maybe even longer than that with the building changing from use as support for the fort to becoming a building with its own use,” Euwema said.

Introducing a general overview of the renovation project, Euwema said the plan was to upgrade support walls and railings, simplify and modernize the electrical metering, and possibly remove overgrown and sickly mahogany trees.

Committee member David Knight Sr. was not thrilled with the idea to remove a tree. Euwema agreed but assured the committee the initial plans could be altered in a project likely to stretch out over years.

“It’s like we’re dating. We’re going to see each other a lot on this project,” Euwema joked.

Knight shot back, “Well, we love you too, Jon.”

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