Balenbouche Estate

Balenbouche Estate

Historical FeatureEco-Agriculture/PermacultureNative Forests/PlantsCultural Performance


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Balenbouche Estate was settled by Europeans as early as the 1740s. The earliest known family name associated with the property is “Martin” in 1770. The estate was owned by the Gaillard de Laubenque family between 1840 and 1860. The current Plantation house (180 yrs old), elaborate landscaping, aqueduct and the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill as well as several artifacts remain.
African slaves were brought to St. Lucia in the 1700s and the remains of their cookware, documentation of the number, origin and occupation have been found on the estate. However, when emancipation was enacted in 1834, 166 slaves worked on the plantation which was then 587 acres, comprising largely sugar cane fields. These freed slaves founded the community of Piayee to the East of Balenbouche where a strong African identity remains.
The late 1800s saw the arrival of East Indian labor who were brought to work on the sugar plantations. They worked on the Balenbouche Estate and settled in the community of Balca to the North of the estate.
The Balenbouche Estate was purchased from the Flossiac family in 1964 by Mr. Erik Lawaetz, who was a Danish-West Indian developer from St. Croix. Jennie Lawaetz refurbished the Estate House with antiques. In addition, the family began diversifying the traditional crops. However, the islands infrastructure and marketing was geared towards banana export which made it difficult for the family to continue with the traditional crop of sugar cane. In addition, there was political tension on the island after independence in 1979 and the family was being accused of being foreign speculators.
The plantation was restored by Mr. Lawaetz’s daughter in law between 1984 and 1989. Uta Lawaetz, an architect and interior designer from Germany, began repairing and renovating the old buildings and established new crops, such as carambolas, passion fruit, ginger lilies, vegetables and tobacco. She converted staff quarters into guest cottages and restored the estate to a position where it was able to sustain itself through a mixture of farming, bed and breakfast accommodations, tours, meals, weddings and other special events. As a result, Balenbouche Estate has become an internationally acclaimed guest house and heritage site

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