The Hermitage History

The Greathouse of The Hermitage is said to be the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean.  It dates to around 1670 although there is evidence that the estate began as early as 1640.  It predates the sugar industry and probably grew tobacco, ginger and nutmeg to start with.  It likely converted to sugarcane later in the 1640’s and there is evidence that a processing mill was once below the house.  The house was certainly standing when Horatio Nelson was living on Nevis and was undoubtedly a place he frequented.

 

The Hermitage was owned by the Pemberton family whose generations lived on the estate for over 300 years. They were among the few who maintained the wooden plantation house rather than replacing it with a stone building.  When the sugar industry collapsed in Nevis and the Pemberton’s ran out of sons and money the property was broken up. The last descendent lived here until 1948.

 

In 1971 the Lupinacci family of Philadelphia bought the land and a jungle-claimed ruin.  They thought it was a tear-down.  But a local carpenter strolled over one day and told them the framing was made of Lignum Vitae – one of the hardest woods on the planet – and that the house was recoverable.  Over the next few years the property was cleared and the Greathouse made habitable. The family, who had been living in Pennsylvania and summering in Nevis, moved permanently  to Nevis in 1983.  What had started as a dream of a retirement home began to evolve into an inn as local chattel houses were reclaimed and moved to the property, the stable and carriage house converted to rooms and cottage reproductions began to rise.

 

Over the years the family has continued to add and maintain traditional wooden houses making the property a living architectural museum.