During these last months I have been preoccupied with McDowell, the Bar Patio and mostly getting the old house ready to open as an art gallery, gift shop. Loni Costello, Lene Larsen and Mait Kangasmaa and I have collaborated on this cooperative project. Loni does beautiful, detailed bags and beach fashion, Lene has her photographs, place mats and cards, and I have my water colour paintings. Mait is our stand by/stand in and encourager and enabler. The shop is not quite open yet, although we have had a good deal of interest. Most of us will be away off and on throughout April and May, so we will have our official opening in June when we are all together.
It is the old house that moved me. It has been empty for years and was falling apart. The ginger bread trimmings and the wooden louvers were disintegrating. It is the oldest standing house in Portsmouth and is a well known landmark. Here is its story.
THE PETER HOUSE
1115 Bay Street, Portsmouth, Dominica
The origin of this house is lost in history, but what is known is that Miss Marion Peter's father (John) bequeathed the house and property to his five lawful children. All were raised in this house. To support his gambling debts, William Harrison (the eldest son) mortgaged the house and subsequently lost it. In 1958, Miss Marion, the eldest daughter and William's sister, bought the house and property at public auction in Roseau and she continued to live here, with her sister, Miss Henrietta Kitzia, and her niece Gwendolyn.
Miss Marion, who was born in 1893, was a pillar of the Portsmouth community. She was postmistress and town clerk and a formidable woman.
Not much is known about Miss Kitzie. She is said to have been "a little off" and rarely went out.
In 1914, Gwendolyn Christophine Peter, Miss Marion's niece, was brought into the house hold after her mother, Sarah Peter, died. She was five years old. Miss Marion's brother, William Harrison was Miss Gwendolyn's father (yes, the same William Harrison who lost the property). Miss Gwendolyn was fond of saying that she "was a rock Peter" since both her mother and her father were Peter! She too, like her Aunt, became a prominent Portsmouth figure, and is still remembered. She supported herself as a seamstress, and as a crafts woman making baskets, painting postcards, and selling small souvenirs in her shop. Miss Marion came to rely on her and she became her Aunt's sole care taker.
All three ladies were spinsters and died at an advanced age and are buried in the Catholic cemetery, side by side.
McDowell Magloire is now the owner of this house and property. He grew up just down the street, next to what is now Joe Duvergny's grocery store (that wooden house is gone and a new 5 story building has just gone up in its place). When he was very young, McDowell's first paying job was to deliver newspapers in Zikac for Miss Marion. As he grew he became the 'man in the yard' for the Misses Peter. Eventually, he went away to sea, as many Dominican young men do, but kept in constant contact with them and always saw them in his comings and goings to Dominica. After Miss Marion and Miss Kitzie died, Miss Gwenny began to lose her eye sight. Eventually, as she became blind, McDowell became Miss Gwenny's sole caretaker. He looked after her until her death in 2012. Miss Gwenny bequeathed the house, the property and the building that is the shop and Sagittarius Bar to him.
Miss Marion Nethalia Peter born September 28, 1893, died 1988
Miss Kitzie died soon after
Miss Gwendolyn Christophine Peter born October 8, 1909, Died March 6, 2012 at 102
THIS LITTLE OLD HOUSE IS DEDICATED TO THEIR MEMORY
And continues as a gift shop and art gallery