Walter Plantz Square set to revive Down StreetPOSTED: 09/24/15 12:53 PM
St. Maarten -The Walter Plantz Square was officially opened on Saturday with an all-day affair in the Down Street vicinity. The Harbor Group organized the activities and the public had the entire day on Saturday to stroll down the square and visit the different booths. “We will always generate a new spirit of life into the area for locals and visitors alike,” Harbor CEO Mark Mingo said.
The square comprises of eight small buildings constructed according to the traditional St. Maarten architectural ginger-bread design, to reflect the national heritage of the destination which is part and parcel of Port St. Maarten’s reinventing cruise tourism, the idea behind the project is to bring in the heritage value of the destination by showcasing the ginger bread homes of the past. During the official ceremony Pastor Benjamin Bell offered words in prayer. “It is a nice reconstruction of a historical environment, which I think is a straightforward indicator of the culture and history of this area,” Minister of Culture Rita Bourne-Gumbs said.
“I acknowledge the economic and beautification purposes of this square, I want to go a little deeper into the symbolism, heritage, vision and meaning of the past that is inscribed into this landscape. There is a cultural importance of place naming in the study of our heritage. Naming is a powerful vehicle for promoting identification with the past and locating oneself within an extensive network of memory,” the minister said.
The approximately $2 million project entailed the construction of a square with cabanas that are used for a bar/restaurant, the selling of arts and crafts and other tourist related goods; it also has a water fountain.
“It is my personal belief that historical sites, monuments, museums, signs and symbols should have rhetorical power,” Bourne-Gumbs said. “They should inscribe ideological messages about the past into the many practices and writings of our everyday lives, making certain versions of our history appear as the natural order of things. I do hope that we will all use the concept behind the opening of this square with conviction as we strive to revive the efforts of Mr. Walter Williams, aka Plantz and many of our elders, throughout our communities.”
This square will revive the economy of the island, Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Ernest Sams said. He encouraged visitors and locals to make use the new facility.
The stepson of the late Walter Plantz, Vincent Williams shared some memories and gave some insight onto who Walter Plantz really was as a fisherman. The square is strategically located next to the Walter Plantz tender jetty which connects to the boardwalk and the beach, and to Down Street and Front Street which allows for a broader distribution flow of passengers.
Godfried Richardson of the Down Street Association spoke about the importance of such a project for the area and thanked the harbor for investing and giving the area hope once again. The public was treated to music and guest acts throughout the day which ended just after 1:00 am on Sunday morning.