Historic U.S. Embassy Building being demolished
|Former US Embassy Building
Jobs are hard to come by in Belize these days, but over a dozen Belize City youths are employed dismantling a historic structure that once housed the United States Embassy in Belize City.
The contractor who preferred to remain unidentified, said the owner had decided to dismantle the building because it has been damaged by a fallen tree, and has also been further vandalised.
The old chancery building, with various additions, had served as the U.S. Embassy in Belize from Independence in 1981 until November 17, 2006. It was the last such wooden U.S. embassy building in the world when it was officially decomissioned after the U.S. opened its new Embassy building in Belmopan on December 11, 2006. The old building was sold to a private party in 2006.
The U.S. Consulate to Belize was first established on Gabourel Lane in Belize City on February 12, 1848.
The building, originally erected in 1866 in New England, was later dismantled and sent as ballast in freighters to Belize City where it was reassembled as a private home.
The U.S. purchased the building from P.W. Shufeldt, the most prominent U.S. citizen in Belize City, to serve as a consulate in what was then British Honduras in the mid 1930s. The first vice consul to work on the ground floor, Culver Gidden, later married Shufeldt’s daughter, whose family lived upstairs, and six of their children were born in the building before the family’s transfer at the end of World War II. The financial austerity of those times obliged P.W. Shufeldt to sponsor the annual 4th of July party on the grounds, because the Vice Consul had no funds for such an event.
The original building had porches only on the back and front, and Hutson Street was a pathway from Gabourel Lane to the sea front. Termites and the tropical elements have always been a problem and much of the building had been replaced, piecemeal, over the years. In the 1950s, the impressive Corinthian columns had to be replaced with plain flat wooden boards due to termite damage and because no cabinetmaker in Belize at that time could duplicate the decorative design.
This handsome building has survived numerous hurricanes, fires and other vicissitudes of local life. In the 1931 hurricane, the building was badly damaged by a tidal wave which flooded the building up to the second story. In the same hurricane then Consul G. Russell Taggart was injured when the building collapsed, and he later died.
In 1961, Hurricane Hattie’s high water and winds caused extensive damage to the building, which has taken all in stride, including the foot of mud left behind by Hurricane Greta in 1978.