In 1964, Erik Lawaetz, a Danish-West Indian developer from St. Croix, purchased Balenbouche Estate from the Floissac family, along with other surrounding farms. He began diversifying the traditional crops, trying to revitalize agricultural production. Jennie Lawaetz refurbished the largely empty 180-year old Plantation House with antiques. However, the couple did not live permanently in St. Lucia and encountered many obstacles. In their absence, the properties were mismanaged, and following independence in 1979, there was political tension and economic turmoil.
Roy and Uta Lawaetz
In 1984, Mr. Lawaetz’s daughter-in-law, Uta Lawaetz, visited Balenbouche Estate and realized that the property was in critical financial and legal condition. Uta and her husband, Caribbean artist Roy Lawaetz, decided to stay and face the tremendous challenges, including the government acquisition of most of the family land in the late 1980′s. Yet they persevered, and were able to save the Balenbouche plantation house and surrounding acreage. Roy and Uta began repairing and renovating the old buildings and establishing new crops, such as Carambolas, passion fruit, ginger lilies, vegetables and tobacco.
Verena and Anitanja Lawaetz
When Roy and Uta separated in 1991, Roy Lawaetz returned to his art career, while Uta remained at Balenbouche with their two daughters. Uta, an architect and interior designer from Germany, had grown up on a farm in Austria and spent many years in the Far East. She felt prepared for the task and knew that only a strong presence would enable her to protect and care for Balenbouche and her children. Gradually the estate was able to support itself through a combination of farming and tourism. For the three women, the preservation and development of the property is a lifelong commitment.