After centuries of existence and years as the home of the US Embassy in Belize City known as the Chancery Building, the old colonial structures on Gabourel Lane are being torn down
Contractor says it will take him a couple of weeks to demolish the historic buildings that once housed the US Embassy in Belize. Historical records indicate that the first U.S. Consulate in Belize was established in February, 1848 at the Gabourel Lane site.
Photograph by Patrick E. Jones
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On December 11, 2006 a new U.S. Embassy building was opened in the capital city of Belmopan and the chancery building in Belize City was officially decomissioned and since sold to a private party. This former chancery building on Gabourel Lane in Belize City was established on February 12, 1848 as the U.S. Consulate to Belize.
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. In the mid 1930s, 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. The first vice consul to work on the ground floor, Culver Gidden, later married Shufeldt’s daughter, whose family was living upstairs. Six Gidden children were born in this building before the family's transfer at the end of World War II. During those parsimonious times, it was P.W. Shufeldt who sponsored the annual 4th of July party on these 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 has had to be 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 1931, the building was badly damaged by a hurricane. As a result of tidal wave action the building was flooded up to the second story. In the same hurricane then Consul G. Russell Taggart was injured when the building collapsed and later died. Likewise, in 1961, Hurricane Hattie’s high water and winds caused extensive damage to the building. This old building has taken all in stride, including the foot of mud left behind by Hurricane Greta in 1978.
Since Belizean independence in 1981 until November 17, 2006, this building, with various additions, served as the U.S. Embassy and was THE last such wooden U.S. embassy building in the world.
Listing when it was for sale:
Address: Gaborel Lane, Belize City
Size: 4,025 sq. m.
Lot Type: Rectangular
Lot Size: 0.48 acres "Less than a Block from Caribbean Sea"
Year Built: 1866
The property was a historic building and was first built in New England in 1866 and then shipped to Belize where it has served as the Chancery (office for the American Ambassador) building until 2007 and was the last wooden US Embassy building in the world.
Size of Buildings: The Chancery Building has three Floors containing 1286 square meters each and the Consular Section Annex containing 167 square meters.
Entire property is fully fenced and gated. The ground floor of the Chancery contains offices, security section, waiting area and a large walk in safe. The second floor has the ambassador’s offices, kitchen area, conference room, and library and 3rd. level has offices (bed rooms) and 1 full bath. The consular annex has the passport processing and waiting area, offices, rest rooms and security area.
The property has a large inhouse fire system as well as back up generator.
Location in Belize City and less than a block from the Caribbean Sea. The buildings occupy a large corner lot in a semi commercial area just two blocks from the tourism sector.
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.
|Former US Embassy Building|
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
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
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.
On December 11, 2006, the Embassy of the United States of America moved from Belize City and officially opened in Belmopan.
To mark the occasion, Director of Overseas Buildings Operations Charles E. Williams visited Belmopan to inaugurate the new facility. In addition, the 156th Army Band of the Louisiana National Guard deployed outside the United States for the first time to perform for this ceremony.
The new Embassy was designed and built as a state-of-the-art facility on a 10-acre site in the capital city of Belmopan. It was designed to fit with the natural setting and to complement the natural beauty of the area.
In addition, the art collection in U.S. Embassy, courtesy of the Art in Embassies program, was selected to celebrate the diversity and beauty of nature - both of the United States of America and Belize.
Final cable from the Ambassador from the USA, from Wikileaks
DE RUEHBE #1047 3191402
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151402Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY BELIZE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0755
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE UNCLAS BELIZE 001047
FOR WHA/CEN, JASON MACK
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ABLD ASEC PREL BH
SUBJECT: FINAL CABLE FROM BELIZE CITY
¶1. This cable marks the closing of the era of U.S.
diplomatic and consular representation in Belize City.
After nearly 160 years in this small town on the Caribbean
Sea, the U.S. Embassy and staff will relocate 55 miles
inland up a two-lane road into the rainforest to the
capital city, Belmopan.
¶2. With the move to a new, modern chancery we lock and
leave for the final time what we believe to be the only
remaining wooden American Embassy. The structure was
originally erected in 1866 in New England, and was knocked
down and sent as ballast in freighters to Belize City where
it was reassembled and served as a private home until 1930
when the USG purchased it. The first U.S. Consul to work
in the building, G. Russell Taggart, was swept out to sea
in 1931 during a hurricane and his body was never
recovered. Subsequent Consuls lived "above the store" on
the second floor of the building until it was raised to an
Embassy in 1981 when Belize, then called British Honduras,
¶3. The building has withstood extensive damage over the
years. The storm surge from Hurricane Hattie in 1961 was
over 12 feet, flooding the ground floor; mud from Hurricane
Greta in 1978 was more than a foot deep; and a neighborhood
fire in 2000 came perilously close to burning the building
to the ground. In addition, termites have worked
diligently to finish what storms, flood and fire could not.
But constant maintenance by a dedicated staff has helped
the building withstand the worst that nature could throw at
her, and she continues to exude a Victorian-era charm that
we will surely miss in our new surroundings. A recent
photo of the old building and staff is at
¶4. We expect Embassy Belmopan to be open for business
after the Thanksgiving holiday. The official dedication
ceremony is scheduled for December 11.
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