The largest town and capital of the islands is George Town (pop: over 18,000), which is principally a business centre dominated by modern office blocks. However, many of the older buildings are being restored and the government is trying to promote museums and societies to complement beach and watersports tourism.
The Cayman Islands National Museum, in the restored Old Courts Building in George Town, opened in 1990 and is well worth a visit. There are exhibits portraying the nation’s seafaring history, an audio visual presentation and a natural history display, as well as temporary exhibitions. The newest feature is a CD-ROM interactive exhibit, where you can touch the screen and access nearly 400 images of traditional sand yards, provision gardens and other features of typical Caymanian life as it used to be. Also audio segments where you can touch and hear accounts by older Caymanians about backing sand, caboose cooking, tending provision gardens, making grounds and sharing the harvest with neighbours. www.museum.ky T9498368. CI$4 adults, CI$2 children 6-18 years. Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 1000-1400. There is a museum shop and The Cool Caboose for refreshments.
Four of the older buildings which are being preserved are the work of a local boat-builder, Captain Rayal Brazley Bodden, MBE, JP (1885-1976). He was called upon to build the Elmslie Memorial Church (Presbyterian, on Harbour Drive, opposite the docks) in 1923. He put in a remarkable roof, with timbers largely salvaged from shipwrecks. Such was the general admiration that he was asked to design the Town Hall, a peace memorial for the First World War. It now looks tiny, but when it was opened in 1926 it was considered a grandiose folly, far too big for the island. Then came the Public Library nearby, with its beautiful hammer-beam roof and painted British university heraldic shields. Lastly the General Post Office,1939, which once housed all the colony’s departments of government. Bodden surrounded the main façades of the building with art deco tapered columns. All his buildings have an inter-war flavour. They are one-storey, made of carefully shaped concrete blocks, poured to give a rustic, deep-grooved effect.
An archaeological dig on the waterfront on the site of Fort George has been sponsored by the Cayman National Trust. Unfortunately only a small part of the walls remain, much was demolished in 1972 by a developer who would have destroyed the lot if residents had not prevented him. The National Trust has designed a walking tour of George Town to include 28 sites of interest, such as Fort George, built around 1790, the Legislative Assembly, the war and peace memorials and traditional Caymanian architecture. A brochure and map (free) is available from the National Trust, PO Box 10, T9490121, F9497494, or the tourist office. Walking tours are also available for West Bay and Bodden Town.