Architecture in Saint Lucia is reflective of the changes in cultural influences the island has gone through from early colonial times until today as well as changes in construction methods and material options and availability that have evolved over time. At numerous locations island wide, stone structures from early plantation days still exist but the trend soon gave way to the use of tropical woods in dwellings and buildings with French influences. In the early 1800s the British finally secured the island and contributed Victorian influences to the mix.
While fine examples of the various styles are still present, the selection has been seriously reduced since the late 18th century by the ravages of fire and natural disasters, particularly in Castries and Soufriere. Three-quarters of Castries was ultimately lost in a horrific fire on June 19, 1948. Half of the island’s most historic town, Soufriére, was destroyed in a 1955 fire. To this add devastating tropical storms in 1780, 1817, 1831 and 1898 and an earthquake in1839, and it is perhaps very understandable why much of Saint Lucia’s architectural history was lost to posterity.
That said, many of the historical plantations and estates still offer a glimpse of the past with many fine examples of period architecture. This is true at Fond d’Or Nature and Historical Park in Dennery, Morne Coubaril Estate and Fond Doux Estate near Soufriere and La Sikwi Sugar Mill in Anse La Raye where meticulous rehabilitation has preserved many of the original structures.
The south end of the town of Soufriére also still features many old French style buildings that are quaint reminders of that era. Nearly all of the island’s towns and villages have fine examples of small century-old wooden homes which are representative of the simplistic Caribbean architecture of the times that featured elements of both French and British influences.
Government House on Morne Fortune overlooking Castries is an outstanding example of Victorian architecture from the 1800s. The building is still the official residence of Saint Lucia’s Governor General, Saint Lucia’s ceremonial Head of State, who presides at official events. On the Morne also can be seen numerous old British military buildings including several that are now part of the scenic campus of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.
Many original French Creole buildings still can be seen in Soufriere
Today’s architecture has gone the way of concrete block structures in part due to their perceived strength against the inevitable tropical storms that come Saint Lucia’s way. Another interesting modern building trend is the construction of homes on concrete pillars which is observed all over the island. Visitors commonly, but incorrectly, assume that this is done to protect against termites and other tropical insect threats or as protection from the flooding and storm surges that accompany tropical storms. Not generally so as this actually is done as part of a very logical approach of constructing in stages. The initial finished structure atop the pillars serves as a very liveable and attractive home until such time expansion is warranted when the lower section can be easily and affordably blocked in creating and extra story of living space.