|III. & IV. PRELIMINARY DAMAGE ASSESSMENT OF LOS
ISLENOS MUSEUM COMPLEX AND CANARY ISLANDS DESCENDANTS ASSOCIATION MUSEUM
III. Los Islenos Museum Complex
Los Islenos Museum Complex consists of ten buildings. Eight are historic structures, all in the process of being restored. Our multi-purpose building, called the Islenos Center is the meeting place of Los Islenos Society and an important gathering place for the community. A replica trapper’s cabin, constructed by Islenos Society volunteers in 2003, had become an important interpretive destination.
The historic structures situated on the museum complex site consist of El Museo de los Islenos, Ducros Historical Museum and Library, Coconut Island Barroom, Estopinal house, kitchen and privy, Esteves house and Caserta house. The structures were built over a 140 year time span, ranging from the late 18th century to 1922.
El Museo de los Islenos was built about 1840 by Vicente Nunez deVillavicencio, the son of Canarian colonists from La Laguna in Tenerife and Aguimes in Gran Canaria. A 90 foot tall water oak collapsed during the flood, caused by the hurricane and crushed the front two rooms. However, Dr. Sherwood Gagliano, of Louisiana State University, who inspected the museum September 15, 2005 believes that the building is recoverable. Much of the structure of the building is intact. Regretfully, all of the interpretive displays were destroyed. About five feet of water remained in the building for an extended period.
Ducros Historical Museum and Library was built about 1800 by Leonardo Estopinal (Estupinan). His father, Diego Estupinan, was a native of Aguimes-Ingenio and settled in St. Bernard in 1783. The house was flooded by about five feet of water. While the exhibits are damaged, the building appears to have received no severe structural damage. Ducros and Islenos Museums are situated in their original site locations.
The Estopinal House was moved to the museum complex site in 1999. The building dates to the 1780's and is identical to those homes constructed by the Spanish Government for the Canarian colonists. The roof of the Estopinal House was shorn off by 150 mile per hour winds. The Estopinal kitchen floated off of its piers and is resting on the ground. The privy will require some repair, but is salvageable.
The Coconut Island Barroom, built in 1922, was flooded but is not irreparable. This Structure was built for Edward Messa whose ancestors originated in Aguimes. This structure is a popular venue for interpretive program illustrating Islenos life in the early 20th century.
The Esteves and Caserta Houses were flooded, but appear to have received no significant damage. After cleaning the structures and the completion of repairs, restoration efforts will resume.
The Isleno Center, constructed in 2000, was flooded and was reset diagonally on its masonry piers by tide water flooding. Consequently, the building is off about 24 inches at the widest point from the piers upon which the structure stands. While some structural damage has obviously occurred, hopefully it is not very serious. The movement of the building is attributable to the force of the tidal wave as it receded. Had the Isleno Center not been positioned where it is, the historic structures beyond the center would have been even more seriously damaged or destroyed.
The replica trapper’s cabin has been seriously damaged. Several structural beams have been cracked.
Although a catastrophe has befallen the facility, we believe that efforts to repair and restore the facility will ultimately succeed. Access to professional architectural and engineering counsel is not possible at this juncture because virtually no one is living or working in New Orleans. All universities in New Orleans are closed for this semester and probably will remain closed for the academic year. We will work diligently to access the professional expertise we need to develop specifications and cost projections to restore Los Islenos Museum Complex to its former appearance.
IV. Canary Islands Descendants Association Museum
This building was opened by the Descendants Association in 2001 as a museum. The Descendants Association owns their museum building and the surrounding property. Therefore, we are not authorized to speak for the Association. An interesting collection of late 19th and 20th century furniture comprised the majority of the exhibit housed in the Association Museum.
Sergio Ramos Lopez, William Hyland, and Mrs. Barbara Bacot made an exterior site inspection of the Association museum and found the back door of the building opened. We walked in to the kitchen and found that flood waters had reached six feet in height in the building. Furniture, kitchen items and decorative pieces had been scattered throughout the house by the flood water, covered with two to five inches of marsh muck and grass. While the collection has been seriously damaged, much of it can probably be recovered.
The Canarian descendants organizations will work together to recover from the disaster posed by Hurricane Katrina.
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©2005 Canary Islanders Heritage Society of Louisiana