The oldest known style of Caymanian home is the ‘wattle and daub’ cottage, which dates back to the mid-18th century. Houses were usually rectangular, with foundation posts made from termite-resistant ironwood.
Gaps between the ironwood or mahogany posts were filled with a basket weave of wattled sticks and then plastered on either side with lime daub made from burnt coral. The earliest roofs were thatched using palm tree fronds, but in more recent times, wood, shingle or corrugated zinc have been used. Windows were simple openings with wood board shutters, while smoke-pots helped keep out mosquitoes.
Normally, these one-storey dwellings would feature a steeply pitched roof. This would keep the houses cooler as hot air rises. The typical sandy yard would have been shaded with seagrape and popnut trees and there would be a separate ‘caboose’ for cooking.
Although modest in terms of aesthetics, these traditional homes tended to be very strong and resilient during storms. Sadly most Cayman’s old wattle and daub homes no longer exist due to development, but the Cayman Islands National Museum has a fascinating wattle and daub exhibit at their historic building.