Tag: Albert Lowe Museum

A Sad Loss for Green Turtle Cay

Green Turtle Cay lost a much-loved stalwart of the community with the recent passing of Iva Lowe Scholtka.

Born on June 13, 1935, Iva was the second of four children and the only daughter of Albert Lowe and Annie Curry Lowe. She was a happy, outgoing child who loved to read and write, and was rarely spotted without a book in her hands.

Amy Roberts All Ages School circa 1950

Iva Lowe (third from left) with her classmates at the Amy Roberts All Ages School. Teacher Amy Roberts is second from left, headmaster Jack Ford is at the back right, and Iva’s brother Alton is in overalls in the front row.

“Iva was very smart and popular,” says her younger brother, Alton Lowe. “She was a real doer and an organizer, always gathering friends together for beach outings and parties. She and Alice Gates Albury would organize dances.” And, with the help of local commissioner, Mr. Gerassimus, Iva and Alice arranged Saturday night movies for the community.

The Albert Lowe Museum’s Forty-Year Facelift

Please note that, to allow for the maintenance and repairs described below, the Albert Lowe Museum is closed from August 1 to October 31, 2018.

There’s big stuff going on at Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum these days. Museum founder (and my cousin) Alton Lowe jokingly refers to it as a “forty-year facelift.”

Seriously though, having recently marked the museum’s 40th anniversary, Alton’s taking steps to ensure the museum remains part of the Green Turtle Cay community for another forty years and more.

Albert Lowe Museum's 40-Year Facelift

New shingles arrive for the Albert Lowe Museum

Job one has been physical maintenance. The museum may be forty-something, but the building that houses it is nearly 200 years old. And before anything could be done inside, the roof needed replacing, to protect exhibits and archives from potential water damage.

The Salt Pig

The things I learn through this blog! I received some interesting and creative guesses as to what our unidentified object was — everything from bee fogger to watering can to bed warmer and even a bed pan.

Can you help identify this find from Green Turtle Cay's Albert Lowe Museum?

This salt pig, donated by Pat and John Robertshaw, is on permanent display at Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum.

But thanks to S. Allwood and David Chudley, we now know it’s a salt pig.

News from GTC’s Albert Lowe Museum

If you haven’t visited Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum lately, you should definitely drop by and meet our new volunteer tour guide, Esther Bethel.

A descendant of the Roberts family who built the home which now houses the museum, Esther would love to give you a tour, share her knowledge of Abaco’s history and show you original oil paintings by world-renowned Bahamian artist (and museum founder) Alton Lowe.

Are You a Descendant of the First Families of Abaco?

Historian Betty Bruce and Artist Alton Lowe, founder of the Island Roots Heritage Festival

Forty years ago this week, the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festival took place in Key West and then in Green Turtle Cay .

During the planning for the first Island Roots Festival, Key West historian Betty Bruce – whose ancestors were among those Abaco families who settled Key West – began gathering the names of other Floridians whose roots stretched across the Gulf Stream to the Bahama islands.

She posted a sign-up sheet in the Monroe County Public Library in Key West and put the word out.

Within just a few months, she had gathered several hundred names on a scroll, which now resides in the archives of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Reading through the scroll, you recognize many common Bahamian surnames, such as Pinder, Knowles, Kemp, Symonette and Moss, from the various Bahamian islands including Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, Long Island, Nassau and Grand Bahama.

Returning to the Sea for Survival

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

As the 20th century dawned, Green Turtle Cay’s glory days were a distant memory. The U.S., having annexed Hawaii and the Philippines, no longer needed the Bahamian pineapples that once buoyed the local economy.

A once-promising sisal industry had failed to thrive, as locally grown product could not compete with Mexican sisal, which was both less expensive and of superior quality. Blight had wiped out most of the Bahamian sponge supply — once known as some of the best in the world.

“Civic,” an oil painting by Alton Lowe. The Civic was a fishing sloop owned by Alton’s father, Albert Lowe.

But though the sea had failed Bahamian spongers, it provided other vital economic opportunities.

The Founding of Key West

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

“John Bartlum” (1814-1871) – oil painting by Alton Lowe

The waters around the Florida Keys were a popular site for many Abaco wreckers. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that salvage from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.

In the years that followed, a number of Abaconians relocated to Key West, then a mostly uninhabited island at the southern end of the chain of Florida Keys.

By 1860, two-thirds of the island’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent, known locally as “Conchs.”

Many Green Turtle Cay natives would be among Key West’s founding families and community leaders, including John Bartlum  and William Curry.

Loyal to the Crown

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

LOYAL TO THE CROWN - The Loyalists who came to the Bahamas in hopes of establishing a new British empire.

“A New Beginning,” oil painting by Alton Lowe, from the private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Sands.

At the beginning of the 1780s, the American Revolutionary War had been raging for more than five years. Residents of the American colonies who wished to gain independence from England, known as Patriots, battled those Loyalists who maintained allegiance to the British Crown.

While the former sought autonomy, the latter believed their freedom was more effectively protected by British law than the untested Declaration of Independence.  Absent protection from the Crown, they worried the American colonies would promptly be annexed by the Spanish or French.

About 500,000 residents – 20% of the American population at the time – were Loyalists. In 1783, believing the Patriots stood no chance against England’s considerable might, they were stunned when Britain elected to grant independence to the United States. It would not be the last time the Crown would betray their loyalty.

Key West Celebrates Its Island Roots May 19 and 20

Because it’s an election year, Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival is on hiatus for 2017.

But the celebrations will go on in Key West, where they’re holding an event next weekend to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Island Roots Heritage Festival, held in 1977.

Key West celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Island Roots Heritage Festival on May 19 and 20, 2017.

Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present Key West Mayor Charles McCoy with the New Plymouth flag at the original Island Roots Heritage Festival – May 1977.

The Key West event kicks off on Friday night, May 19th, with a performance by the Barefoot Man and his band at Two Friends Patio Restaurant.

The Barefoot Man (George Nowak) and his band will perform at the Island Roots Heritage Festival in Key West May 19 and 20

On Saturday May 20th, the fun goes from noon until 11:00 pm at the Truman Waterfront Park Field. There will be carnival rides and music, including a performance by children from the Bahama Village Music Program. A variety of vendors will sell food, beverages and island-inspired crafts, and I hear there may even be a Junkanoo rush!

If you’re interested in tracing your own island roots, you won’t want to miss the presentation by Peter Roberts of the Bahamas DNA Project. Peter will have DNA kits available for those who would like to be tested.

Peter Roberts of the Bahamas DNA Project

The sister city relationship between Key West and Green Turtle Cay — first proclaimed in 1977 — will be reaffirmed, and the evening will wrap up with another performance by the Barefoot Man.

Bahamian Member of Parliament George Smith presents the Sister City proclamation to Key West Mayor Charles McCoy – May 1977.

General admission for adults is $5, and includes a wristband so folks can come and go from the event all day. Children will be admitted free, but will still receive a keepsake wristband.

For more details, visit the event’s Facebook page.

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Laying Rope

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

In the late 1880s, believing it held the key to the colony’s economic success, Bahamian Governor Ambrose Shea introduced sisal, a plant that yields a stiff fibre used to make rope, twine, mats and other household items.

Lambert Gates (left) and Vertrum Lowe laying rope, circa 1950. Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Since the U.S. had no domestic sisal supply, the governor pointed out, there was a ready market nearby. Furthermore, since sisal plants live more than a decade and survive in virtually any condition, they require minimum care.

Wilson City: A Modern Marvel

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

In 1906, an American group calling itself the Bahamas Timber Company obtained a 100-year contract to log pinelands in Abaco. On a site south of Marsh Harbour, they built a state-of-the-art sawmill and an adjacent town, Wilson City, to house employees.

Wilson City (Abaco, Bahamas): A Modern Marvel

Wilson City, Abaco, Bahamas.  Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

A Sweet Glimpse Into Green Turtle Cay’s Past

Just east of New Plymouth’s government buildings, in the yard behind the customs officer’s residence, sits an unremarkable hunk of rusted equipment. All but overgrown by tall grass, it’s easy to overlook. But it actually represents a window into early 20th-century life on Green Turtle Cay.

The rusted remnants of a sugarcane mill, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. The years following the turn of the century were lean ones for the residents of New Plymouth. Just a few decades before, the settlement had been vibrant and prosperous. Some of its more adventurous residents made their fortunes as blockade runners during the American Civil War. Others harvested sponges or turtles, or cultivated sisal, citrus and pineapples.

With work plentiful, Green Turtle Cay’s population soared to nearly 2,000. Its streets were lined with large, gracious homes decorated with fine furniture and imported silks and linens.

Honouring the Shared Loyalist Heritage of New Plymouth and Key West

As we count down the days to the upcoming Island Roots Heritage Festival, I thought I’d take a look back at the very first Island Roots events, held nearly 40 years ago.

Planning the First Island Roots Festivals -- James Mastin, Betty Bruce and Alton Lowe

Planning the first Island Roots events — sculptor, James Mastin, historian, Betty Bruce and artist, Alton Lowe

The original Island Roots concept was conceived shortly after Bahamian artist and Green Turtle Cay resident Alton Lowe opened the Albert Lowe Museum in 1976.

The morning after the museum’s opening ceremonies, Florida historian Betty Bruce (whose own ancestors came from Green Turtle Cay) asked Alton what he had planned as a follow-up. As their conversation evolved, so did the idea of a festival that would honour the common Loyalist roots of the residents of Green Turtle Cay and Key West, Florida.

Program Schedule copyIn the late 18th century, having suffered  persecution in the aftermath of the American Revolution, many British Loyalists fled to the Bahamas, hoping to establish plantations. Sadly, many of these settlers were unprepared for the hardships of 18th century island living. When it became clear that the local soil was in fact unsuitable for large-scale farming, many packed up their belongings, their families and in some cases, even their houses, and returned to the U.S., where they helped establish Key West.

In the months following Betty and Alton’s original conversation, their idea gained popularity and plans began to take shape, both in Key West and on Green Turtle Cay.

A year later, in November 1977, Island Roots festivals were held in both communities.

More than thirty thousand people attended the Key West event, where they enjoyed art exhibits, a fashion show, a musical performance by the Royal Bahamian Police Band, a Junkanoo parade — and a slice of the world’s largest key lime pie.

Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy with the New Plymouth flag

At the Key West festival, Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present local mayor, Charles McCoy, with the New Plymouth flag

In commemoration of their common heritage, and with the support of both governments, New Plymouth and Key West proclaimed themselves sister cities.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

The celebrations continued the following day, as hundreds of visitors descended upon the New Plymouth settlement. The two-day inaugural Green Turtle Cay Island Roots Festival featured Bahamian music, dance and dramatic performances, a traditional Maypole plaiting and, of course, a Junkanoo rush.

Subsequent Island Roots festivities have been staged over the years and more recently, the Island Roots Heritage Festival has become an annual Green Turtle Cay event, celebrating New Plymouth’s Loyalist heritage and relationship with Key West, and reuniting Abaconians with family members from the U.S., Canada and beyond.

To learn more about the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festivals, check out the current exhibit in the Wrecker’s Gallery at the Albert Lowe Museum.

All photos courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Related: Island Roots: Celebrating All Things Abaco, Island Roots Festival: Bridging Past and Future, Celebrating Our Bahamian Culture: Island Roots Heritage Festival 2014

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