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The Almond Bottom

The Almond Bottom

by Sir Roland Richardson

Cracking almond shells makes a unique pounding sound. It has a roundness that floats. It recalls the general quietude that enveloped my childhood village of Grand Case.

I heard it again the other day and, unexpectedly it evoked the special crunchiness of the salt encrusted pondside ground of the path between the receding ponds. I always sought to walk where neither animal not people had tread; the crunch made walking here special. I always felt as if it was a passage into the unknown. We took this path whenever it was the season to pick cashews or mangoes, hog plums, sugar apples or soursops. Kenep trees grew like hedges at the foot of the hill, the cherry trees sweetened the air with their red brightness, the only Locust tree I knew rose gracefully, silver and blue... adventure was "Over the Pond."

The wind became the sound of endless numbers of little waves taping on the shore. The luminescent grey-green heavy water transformed into white fluffy fluttering froth. This "snow" would be blown across the path against our feet and shins-myriad rainbow-filled bubbles bursting, leaving a briny coating.

Often cattle walked the edge into the water and sank to their knees in the smooth black mud releasing the smell of primitive earth. Chichiwees and Daddy Long Leg pond birds rose and set in chirping flocks leading the way across the pond.

Memories are mysterious and magical. They exist intact and unchanged by time. They interconnect yet maintain their integrity. They weave the network of a whole life while inhabiting their own space and timelessness within our life. Memories are more than remembered past events and though they are part of the fabric making up the present person, they are somehow apart. What happens that makes an event or an experience a memory? We don't remember our whole life with the same distinctness as a memory. Within them, all our senses are intensely active simultaneously.

The Almond Bottom was over the pond in a place all its own. Unlike other trees, Almonds go through several full seasons every year. Leafless, their dark trunks and spreading knobby branches are scary. Soon young spring-green buds shoot out shinny and shimmering, then transform rapidly into large emerald and cool deep green leaves in which cluster its hidden fruit. The almond fruit ripens from a lentil shaped invisible green fruit to a bright yellow which falls to the ground. Then autumn's splendor of yellow, orange, flaming red and purple all cascade, covering the ground and fallen nuts, under a thick brown coat that sounds hollow and mysterious to our searching feet.

Bats and rodents and kids love to eat the thin yellow skin, but the nut hidden inside is what brings us on this adventure. In the deep shadow that lay like a pool separating it and us from the rest of the world, we scrambled and searched amidst roots that writhe as if alive. The trees' huge purple barked trunks took several of us to span them with our encircling arms. They were so tall we called them great-grandfather trees and were certain that they were aware of us and offered us these nuts as a reward for our daring.

On the way home we walked in the mud and all went home with black "shoes." After sunning the nuts for a few days, the cracking would begin. The pounding would float intermittently over the village and stop when that distinctive crack was heard. Hidden inside a thick spongy fibrous cover is a thin hard inner shell which nestles our prize. Despite pounded fingers and much labor and its tiny ness, the almond nut is one of the Caribbean's true hidden treasures. It is like a little rolled cigar. Brown outer skin, pearly moist and crunchy inside, this treasured flavor contains memories that have nourished numberless generations. An old lady friend once said to me "My children partly rear from these nuts, you know. Oh, we eat good bread from these."

As eager children, we would and could at any time of year crack a few and delight in their fresh state. But boiled in brown sugar and cooled on a wet board or on a piece of marble stone, these almond sugar cakes preserve Sunday afternoon strolls in our finery, giggling, sharing, munching the treasure we held in pieces of brown paper: moments when we were content with the present.  

Sir Roland and Laura Richardson happily invite you to discover their beautiful gallery in Marigot at a charming Creole landmark building with private garden. They would be delighted to hear from you!

Please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Magic Jack, Tel: 1-443-982-0683

 Visit their beautiful gallery at:
Roland Richardson Gallery Museum
#6 rue de la Republique, Marigot, St. Martin
Where Fine Art, History and Nature abound! 

(c) copyright Laura and Roland Richardson 2013


Poems By Laura Richardson

A Collection of Poems


Laura Richardson

Burke_Lake_Reflections_Oil_on_Canvas_16_x_22_October_1997-082911------------------------------- “Reflections” an original oil by Sir Roland Richardson

----------------------------------------------- Stepping Stones 


I’ll tell you a secret
that’s real as the day
though I doubt you’ll believe
what I’ve come here to say.

Is this a story,
or are these things real?
You be the judge of
the mysteries revealed…

I’ve peace and great pleasure
that steady my bones
when I think of the
magical stepping stones.

I was tired and worried
and lost one grey day,
when I felt the ground move
in a very strange way.

Confused in my heart,
wondering which way to go,
I could sense a solution
beginning to show.

Ahead rose a path,
without a sound,
of round stepping stones
rising up from the ground.

One step at a time
is their only true pace.
You can choose where to turn
and it isn’t a race. 

Sometimes the step’s long
with pauses between,
but the footing is strong
and their teaching is keen. 

Now this was the first of
their many return,
whenever I need
something special to learn. 

Faith and good patience
have new meaning today,
for those magical stones
always help lead the way. 

Poem by Laura Richardson

"Radiance In The Garden" by Sir Roland Richardson

Little Girls & Little Boys  

The world belongs
to little girls
whose hair cascade
in curls and lashes flutter
like butterflies
around their radiant eyes. 

The world’s a toy
to little boys
who nimbly run
and jump and roll
chased by the sun
in brilliant fun. 

The world is a flower
in a young girl’s hand
with magical powers
like a soft-petaled wand
that flows on her command. 

The world is a treasure
to dragon-flying boys
whose fearless feats are
measured in quantum
leaps of endless joy. 

It’s not without a trip,
a tear, a fall,
or rip, by chance,
but little girls and little boys
know how to dance
the dance.  

*  *  * 

With many years,
I still defy the drying skin
that tries to hide
the youth within. 

I realize that it is a stream
that passes through
the cocoon’s dream
to bathe
and be reborn again,
and infinitely again. 

 Poem by Laura Richardson

----------- “Flamboyant Fireworks” by Sir Roland Richardson, 2010 painted rooftop from life

--Very Happy Holidays! 

Red and Green, though opposites,
unite in one fine goal,
uplifting many joyful hearts,
while joining many souls.

We treasure Noel's yuletides,
green trees with big red bows,
and share with love true nature's best,
Flamboyants all aglow!

Best wishes always,
Roland, Laura and Radiance Richardson
St. Martin, French West Indies

"Flamboyant View to the Sea" by Sir Roland Richardson, painted "en Plein Air"

Poem by Laura Richardson


 younggirlinredblouse-r300x400"Young Girl in Red Blouse" painted from life by Sir Roland Richardson

Young Bliss

I was a pilot
who twirled in
twilight copter spins
and whirled with levitating glee
when I was three.

In snow knee deep
we lay in drifts,
like down on angel's wings,
we flapped to carve
our silhouettes amidst
that bright white sea.

In Springtime
bike spokes spun in sync
through back yards
leaf-lined riding rinks.
Around the bend
our snake would wind,
the youngest always
last in line -
that was me.

In Fall, the mounds
of leaves concealed
a deep, dank universe
revealed with fingers
dug through molding beds
where squiggly earthworms
poked their heads.

When freezing winds
transformed the lake,
we briskly laced
our white boot skates,
to slip and slide
and sail and ride
the rippled ice
in search of 
frozen fish.

Spring balmy afternoons
we met with balls and sticks
to take turns up at bat.
When street lamps glowed
through navy skies
we sat curbside to chat.

We knew that
Summertime arrived
when ice cream trucks
sang merry cries
and fleeting home,
my heart would pound,
that Mom could spare a dime.

A blizzard dumped
four feet of snow.
They closed our school three days.
We children teamed on
what to do, then
building, building
til we were blue,
we built ourselves a real igloo.
We tunneled a week
through that hard-packed snow
living the life of an Eskimo.

Throughout the seasons,
porch to porch,
triangles tinkled to return,
to eat and bathe
for early bed
with daily prayers
and wishes said.

Hours were days,
months seemed like years, 
yet all flashed like a glint,
in a glance.
From chasing each other
in tag till the dark,
we dared holding hands,
and together,
we learned how to dance. 

When the time came
for my belly to swell
with babies dreaming
to be born,
I prayed for them
to share such joy
awakening each morn.

Light years have passed
while I still reminisce
on this far away world
filled with young bliss.

My children are grown,
those homes have passed hands,
the neighbors grew old,
some are gone.

Yet still it's as if
on a fine sunny day,
I wake with the sense
that it's time to go play.

Time to roam,
time to explore,
the season to open
every new door,
and always remember,
remember with splendor,
all that has come before.

Poem by Laura Richardson, July 2011

Original Mezzotint by Sir Roland Richardson

 Beans and Dreams

Jack's bean sprouted
with a POP
and grew and grew

until it topped
the highest cloud,
then went
as if the plant
was Heaven bound.

His mother vexed
her last coins spent
on such a worthless
but when she saw
the giant stalk
that streamed,
her vision's reach,
she wondered
what her son
had done.

He disappeared that
night in hope to
reach new worlds
His simple days,
impoverished ways,
all vanished as he climbed.

Higher, higher, and then
still higher,
he stepped into Unknown.
he climbed so high,
when looking down,
he feared that
he might die.

The stalk threw stems
like giant beds
that fed his every step
as higher, higher,
fed by desire,
he finally poked his head
into a world of gigantic gain,
a world so contrast
to his plane,
he shook his head,
he rubbed his eyes,
Was this a dream?
Was this a prize?

A hen broke
with a cluck
his brief, sweet, reverie.
He toppled off his
broad-stemmed leaf
and fell beyond the tree.

Poem by Laura Richardson, March 2012

Sir Roland and Laura Richardson happily invite you to discover their beautiful
gallery in Marigot at a charming Creole landmark building with private garden. 
They would be delighted to hear from you.

Please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Magic Jack, Tel: 1-443-982-0683

Visit their beautiful gallery at:
Roland Richardson Gallery Museum
#6 rue de la Republique, Marigot, St. Martin
Where Fine Art, History and Nature abound!

(c) Copyright Laura and Roland Richardson 2013


In Search of Paradise

In Search of Paradise

By Roland and Laura Richardson 

Mankind has always dreamed of Paradise, perhaps even seeking to return to that which was lost from the start. 

This same search drew humanity to St. Martin thousands of years ago, when small bands of Amerindians left their shores of South America in canoes of hollowed tree-trunks, journeying hundreds of miles to discover and colonize this tiny, 36 square mile island. Even now, though recognized as one of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations, St. Martin remains a barely discernable spec on the map in a strand of other miniscule land formations emerging from the Caribbean Sea, charted as the Lesser Antilles. 

Only in the 15th century do records of this region begin, with Columbus venturing “the Green Sea of Darkness” whose reach went beyond the edges of the world. Columbus’ westward route to India in 1492 claimed forevermore these lands as the West Indies, and just in passing, when days of feast were ceremoniously offered to the saints, Saint Martin of Tours was honored with Colombus’ new sighting.  

The tale that earned this great Knight his sainthood reminds us of the peaceful accord that uniquely marks this bi-national island. It is said that Martin of Tours took his cloak off his back and split it in two to share with a beggar who, after this noble act of kindness, revealed himself as Christ. Is it just a coincidence that hundreds of years later this little island, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is peacefully shared by two European Nations?  

It took war and constant shift of domination to earn this peace. The race for land and resources, driven by the wealth of the Church, set the Spanish on course for the New World. England, France and Holland soon followed in the early 1500’s, all at the sacrifice of the natives, considered heathens, who cultivated these islands as Eden. In less than 100 years, their ancient culture was buried forever with the turn of the soil. 

In 1624, the first Dutch to arrive found the island uninhabited. Five years later, in 1629, the first French were washed to shore in a hurricane on the northeast coast, eventually forming the small colony, French Quarter. From the sea, it would have been possible to view the formerly cleared and cultivated lands, fruit trees, and village site based where a fresh water well still bears the spiritual mark of pre-Columbian man in the form of a petroglyph. 

Following the example of the Amerindians, the French and Dutch picked salt and cultivated tobacco, which quite probably was grown here before their arrival. Originally called “Sualouiga”, an Amerindian name meaning “land of salt,” the island’s salt ponds were a valuable commodity to Europe, the Dutch taking Great Bay pond and the French in Grand Case.

----------------------------- Marigot by Sir Roland Richardson

In the course of those 160 years, this small spot on the map changed hands at least 16 times in battles waged between the France, Holland, Spain and England, each victor repeating the dismantling of the former’s restoration, destroying valuable records and vestiges of the past.

Finally, on March 23, 1648 on Mont des Accords, known more popularly as Mont Concordia, the Partition Treaty was signed between Holland and France. The actual boundary line separating the two countries in the form of a stone wall was not built until 124 years later.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Fort Amsterdam was rebuilt on the Philipsburg peninsula around 1765, establishing the shipping port and capital of Dutch St. Maarten. Fort Louis was commissioned by Louis XVI and, in 1778; Marigot was made the French capital and main harbor.

Big Street by Sir Roland Richardson

Cotton was principally grown for the first half of the 17th century, when in the early 1700’s cane spread and prosperity followed for almost a hundred years. Stately homes and manicured “Habitations,” plantations, marked the era with romantic names as: “Jardin D’Eden,” “Delight,” “Windy Hill,” “Les Sables de Marigot,” “Diamant,” “Grizele,” “Chambard,”   regally positioned with majestic overviews of their estates. Seemingly endless walls of neatly piled stones separated cotton fields from cane fields, bordered orchards and flower alleys. From Pic Paradise to the Hope, from Fonds d’Or to the Lowlands, from La Barriere and Les Anses Marcel to the Belvedere, from Belle Plain to Dutch Quarter to Middle Region to St. Peters they stretched. Neat and well ordered, all were built in bondage by slaves. Just over a hundred years later, little remains of the 62 Sugar Plantations of St. Martin but their slave walls remain, criss-crossing the landscape, as quiet monument. 

By the time of the abolition of slavery reached the French colonies in 1848, nearly 80 percent of the population of St. Martin was black. The Dutch side tottered for another 15 years before it too, abolished slavery. The economic collapse left St. Martin a community struggling once more. Work was sought on other islands, in other cane fields, or oil fields and construction sites, while two World Wars were fought across the ocean. The flying machine advanced from single gliders to engine-propelled fleets. 

In 1944, St. Martin received its first visitors by air on a little strip field christened in person by Princess Juliana. The search for Paradise began anew.

Sir Roland and Laura Richardson happily invite you to discover their beautiful gallery in Marigot at a charming Creole landmark building with private garden. They would be delighted to hear from you!

Please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Magic Jack, Tel: 1-443-982-0683

 Visit their beautiful gallery at:
Roland Richardson Gallery Museum
#6 rue de la Republique, Marigot, St. Martin
Where Fine Art, History and Nature abound!

 (c) copyright Laura and Roland Richardson 2013


Airplane Landings

Most of the photos on this page are of airplanes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport which handles all international jet planes landing on St. Maarten as well as some smaller propellar driven planes. A few of the photos are of planes landing at the small airport in Grand Case, St. Martin, which only handles small propellar planes doing flights to local islands.

The plane above is landing over the beach between the Sunset Beach Bar/Restaurant and the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. This is one of the only landing patterns in the world where planes approach the runway at approximately 40 feet over the heads of hundreds of tourists on the beach who come from around the world to take a photo of a landing plane from close up. Some of the other photos show people being blown away in the jet blast of planes about to take off. By the way, do you see the head of the swimmer in the lower right side of the photo above?

The standing surf board in one of the pictures below lists the daily schedule for flights arriving from the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and several local islands and countries. Most of the planes listed on the board are large jets. The board lists the airline name, the airport it is arriving from and the time of arrival. Hundreds of tourists daily read the board schedule early in the day - not to find out what time their friends and family are arriving, but rather when the big jets are arriving for a photo opportunity. By the time the big jet arrives, hundreds of tourists stand elbow to elbow crowding the Sunset Beach Bar and the beach itself to get a great photo. Also, during the day, these tourist line up along the beach, road or fence to get a jet blast as the plane takes off. Although, it seems to be fun, it can be dangerous as small stones and debris get picked up and thrown at you with jet force. Warning: Recently, a women taking photos by the fence behind a jet blast from a large jet was thrown off her feet and broke her neck.

Watching the big jets land and take-off from Princess Juliana International Airport has become a famous pasttime. It is one of the few airports in the world where you can take photos of a jet plane landing within 30 feet of your head. Enjoy the photos.

The standing surf board lists the daily schedule for flights arriving from the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and several local islands and countries. Most of the planes listed on the board are large jets. The board lists the airline name, the airport it is arriving from and the time of arrival.

2011_1225SXMNovDec0101KLM 747 arriving from Amsterdam or Paris
2011_1225SXMNovDec0102-------- The KLM plane leaving for the return to Europe
2010_1205SXM-Trip0064The standing surf board lists the daily schedule for flights arriving from the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and several local islands and countries. Most of the planes listed on the board are large jets. The board lists the airline name, the airport it is arriving from and the time of arrival. Hundreds of tourists daily read the board schedule early in the day - not to find out what time their friends and family are arriving, but rather when the big jets are arriving for a photo opportunity. By the time the big jet arrives, hundreds of tourists stand elbow to elbow crowding the Sunset Beach Bar and the beach itself to get a great photo. Also, during the day, these tourist line up along the beach, road or fence to get a jet blast as the plane takes off. Although, it seems to be fun, it can be dangerous as small stones and debris get picked up and thrown at you with jet force.  
UnitedLandingUnited Airlines landing...
2011_1225SXMNovDec0125 In position to take off...
2011_1225SXMNovDec0126-Revving up the engines...
2011_1225SXMNovDec0127The jet blast after the United plane just took off...
AmericanAirlines American Airlines landing...
AirCaraibesAir Caraibes flying by...
AirCaraibes2Air Caraibes landing...
As previously mentioned, I have several thousand photos of StMaarten/StMartin in our system; so, it takes some time to find and coordinate the photos of plane landings and take offs. Then I have to write brilliant comments that go with each photo and of course, position each photo on the page. My point is, it takes some time to do all this; and, it won't be done in a day or a week. So, come back to this page frequently because I hope to add more photos. 

If you like these photos, feel free to copy them and place them on your website. I only ask that you give attribution to Thanks! Regards, Sam Fusco.



Soualiga, the Land of Salt

By Roland and Laura Richardson

            Created by a process as natural as it is mysterious, salt is a gift of nature that for uncountable centuries has been at the very heart of St.Martin-St.Maarten history. The Land of Salt, Soualiga, the island’s earliest name given by the Amerindian people, reflects clearly how much it impressed them. 

Without salt, mankind and all the animal kingdom would perish. It has influenced every civilization throughout the course of history. Salt was the chief preservative that allowed sustenance through times that would have been famine. It was a currency traded for goods and hard-earned wages. It graced the tables of kings for their health and protection. It was carried by brides and grooms with promise of fertility. To trace the history of salt is to trace the history of man. 

As the islands only natural resource, salt was our first truly organized industry. When a small landing party of Dutchmen arrived on St. Martin in 1624 and discovered the Great Bay pond, they might as well have struck gold. The French discovered that the pond in Grand Case was worth their return to the island after surviving a hurricane’s wrath in 1629. To these spare forces, salt’s promise of fertility, health, protection and prosperity was lure enough to found this community that remains today shared by these two nations. 

The salt industry of St. Martin/Sint Maarten preceded and outlived indigo, tobacco, sugar, cotton, and every other economic effort undertaken here. Its quantity and high quality made it sought after and this brought us contact and exchange with the outside world. Though hard and often painful labor, it offered the joy of congregation, nourished our pride and shaped our identity.  

Mrs. Jane Elizabeth Human from French Quarter reminisced before her death at age 104, “the money from the salt was sweet.” 

Excerpts from the document that follows, written in 1839, offer an extraordinary record of St. Martin history, describing the official commencement of the 1789 salt harvest in Great Bay, Philipsburg.   During this same year described, construction of Fort Louis was completed in Marigot, while in Paris, the public storming of Bastille on July 14, 1789 broke new ground for Western democracy.  

SaltFactory-R398x312---------------- Salt Factory by Sir Roland Richardson

--------The report was commissioned by the Commander of the Netherlands part of St.Martin and signed by Abraham Cannegeiter and Richard Robinson Richardson, and reads, 

“The opening of the pond on the first day of reaping salt in the year 1789 in this colony, which the undersigned pleasingly remember, was a beautiful sight. The whole length of the southern shore, nearly one mile, was crowded with the inhabitants of both which could not have been less in number that six or seven thousand persons, five hundred flats stood ready, with their laborers alongside them so that at the given signal, each flat had some fanciful flag and the negro women, who were laborers in them, had their many colored handkerchiefs fixed to small poles, and waved them in the air. 

Our national flag the emblem of her glory, industry and commercial enterprise, was heisted at the fort in honor of the occasion. The salt pond before, was beautiful white with salt and promised a glorious crop, and the sun having risen in all his glory, as though he claimed the torrid zone for his exclusive empire, was the moment for the signal gun to be fired from the fort, announcing that the pond might be entered, the shouts of the whole assemblage greeted the intelligence, and each flat pushed off, eager to be the first to load and to return, and throw a basket of salt on the pond side, when to receive a small customary reward which was more value as the triumph of superior industry, than from any other motive; some idea may be formed of the great value of a salt crop in this island, by considering the size of flats employed, which vary from 15 to 25 feet long, and from 8 to 12 feet wide, they are perfectly flat bottomed, and made of the lightest wood, so that when filled with salt, carrying from 25 to 40 barrels each flat, they do not require more than eight inches of water to float them. From 12 to 15 laborers, men and women are required to one flat, and each laborer is reckoned to pick ten barrels.” … 

To understand the value of this industry, the riches were tallied on tax alone.

Their notes continue: 

“In quantity of salt reaped during the crop of 1789 may be conceived from the extent of the situation, on which the heaps were placed, the whole extent of the pond side, as has already been mentioned, as allotments, nearly one English mile in length, had heaps of salt, each touching the other, not one heap containing less than one thousand barrels, the greater number, from four to five thousand, and one individual had a heap exceeding one hundred thousand barrels. It was estimated at the time, that over three millions of barrels were reaped.” 

“….from the month of July 1789, to that of May 1790 a period of only eleven months, there was collected by dutyon salt thirty thousand guilders, and from the same source of information, that from the month of May 1789 to that of November 1792, only thirty one months, there was shipped from the port of Great Bay, seven hundred and five thousand barrels, from which the colonial government received two hundred and sixty thousand, nine hundred and ninety eight guilders.” 

            This was the peak generation for the salt industry on St Martin-St.Maarten, throughout the same period of radical shifts in economics that birthed democracy in Europe and North America. Thereafter, the decline of the salt industry is documented. It is only later through the efforts of Francois Perrinon that the salt ponds of Grand Case, Chevrise and latter that of Bretagne or Orient on the French side are developed. There was also occasional salt reaping in Red Pond in the Low Lands, but it only produced in time of great drought. 

Francois Auguste Perrinon, a Navy Commander from Martinique, arrived in St.Martin in 1833. He established a company to exploit the salt basins of St.Martin on June 18th, 1844. This concession, granted in 1842, concerned the salt basins of Grand Case and Bretagne. Although, he did not speak English, Perrinon’s undertaking was considered a success, and it served as the basic argument for his stand against slavery. Perrinon employed free blacks and slaves, whom he paid equally, and put them to work side by side. He organized work on the salt ponds in a military disciplined manner, with promotion to higher grades.   Faced with the decline of the sugar industry, this exploitation of the salt basins was a most welcome means of economic change and growth. Perrinon, established a company in Amsterdam called the “Salt Processing Company of Saint Martin”, in order to exploit the Great Salt Pond in Philipsburg in 1858, and work on the Foga factory was completed in 1862, one year after Francois Perrinon’s death. 

            St. Martin’s salt was awarded the Diplome de Grand Prix as the Best Product in the Bruselles Universal Exposition of 1910. It was exported to France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Nova Scotia, but mostly to New England in the U.S.A. to be was used for the preservation of meat and cod fish. For a short time some was shipped to Canada for use in the roads in winter. After being in relatively continuous production from the 17th century, salt production ended in the Great Salt Pond of Philipsburg in 1949, but struggled on until the 1960s in Grand Case. 

            Today the salt ponds of St. Martin are tranquil pools of water reflecting the changing stations of the sun and moon, the eternal passing of the clouds, and time. They are an ecosystem unique as the element they contain most, a maternal sanctuary for each new season’s wildlife. Sleeping, buried in the thick mud at the ponds’ depths, are the smells and sights and sounds of our forefathers’ dreams. 

Sir Roland and Laura Richardson happily invite you to discover their beautiful gallery in Marigot at a charming Creole landmark building with private garden. They would be delighted to hear from you! 

Please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
Magic Jack, Tel: 1-443-982-0683

Visit their beautiful gallery at:

Roland Richardson Gallery Museum
#6 rue de la Republique, Marigot, St. Martin
Where Fine Art, History and Nature abound! 

(c) copyright Laura and Roland Richardson 2013

Marigot, The French Capital

On March 23, 1648, the Treaty of Concordia established the terms of peaceful co-existence between the French and Dutch settlements of St. Martin/St. Maarten, with the French colonizers maintaining the Northern two-thirds, facing Anguilla, and the Dutch, the southern third.

The village of Marigot appeared towards 1689 on the initiative of a few merchants who used the bay to load their ships with agricultural produce on the French side. Originally, the area was a marsh surrounded by mangroves where one could get many crabs, even in the streets. The town was baptized Marigot, from the word "maricage" meaning ponds and BlvddeFrancemarshes in Old French.

Experiencing rapid growth the first half of the 18th century due to the introduction of sugar cane plantations, the little village became capital to different governors succeeding each other to develop and organize the colony. Batteries of canons and modest fortification guarded access to the port until 1789 when Fort Louis was built.

Fort Louis remains the largest historic and only military monument in St. Martin. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of the ill-fated French King Louis XVI, who soon lost his head in the French Revolution.

By the early 1800's there were 35 to 37 sugar cane plantations on each side of the island, worked by slaves brought from Africa. In 1848, slavery was abolished in the French Caribbean islands, and the sugar industry quickly waned, with the close of the last St. Martin plantation in 1915. The economy of the island from the early 20th century to the mid-1950's was very poor. 

MarigotCatholicChurch2Many of the families that carried the island's heritage at the turn of the 20th century still exist today. There are those whose ancestors arrived in the 1600's, who where charged with building Fort Louis, whose great-great-great-great grandparents are buried on their old plantation grounds like Loterie Farm and Golden Grove Estates in Colombier, Bellevue and St. John's on the outskirts of Marigot.

Life was simple in the absence of electricity, telephone and cars. Nature dominated. Even currency was not readily negotiated among these colonists. Trade and sharing linked families, where Christian doctrine influenced all of their lives in their effort to survive and grow. The Marigot Church up old "Church Hill," now rue de l'Eglise, has been a central force in the French community for over 150 years. 

One beautiful woman, now in her seventies, remembers the extraordinary spirit that united all. Her father's legacy includes many of the historic Creole homes in Marigot, Grand Case, French Quarter and Philipsburg. Because of his construction business, a cistern of grand proportions was built to secure water for the mixture of the island's first cement in the early 1920's, which he dug in the heart of Marigot by the now Palais de Justice, adjacent to their seaside home. In the worst of droughts, even this would run dangerously low, while many families had already lost their water reserves, and Marigot's community well had run dry.

She recalls, as a young child over sixty years ago, when she witnessed her mother's sharing from the giant cistern of their business, its water level greatly diminished.

She was afraid that they would have no water for their own family of ten children. Her mother quieted her when another mother arrived asking for water and she shared in the heat of the day. That very evening, the night skies opened and rain fell in bucketsful.. 

The next morning her mother took her by the hand to visit their water supply. "Imagine," heDSCF0040Ar mother taught, "how I would feel today, if I had sent our friend away without water yesterday?" This is the spirit of faith and hope that kept this city alive.  

While the 1920's were roaring in the United States, there were no planes for leisure travel. Air flight was just taking wing. It wasn't until the 1950's, after World War II, that St. Martin began to receive visitors by air.

Michelette (Mimi) Fleming remembers her first trip to St. Martin in October 1957 when she arrived from New York with her fiance, Elie Fleming, to visit his homeland. She remembers a dirt airstrip with a little house as the airport, and stayed with her best friend and future Maid of Honor at Little Bay, the island's first modern hotel which hosted Queen Juliana of the Netherlands on her royal visits.

Mimi was 26 years old, working in Wall Street as an interpreter for American Express, when she met Elie Fleming, an honored guest at a concert organized in a popular French club in Manhattan. Son-heir of major property owners on French St. Martin, Elie was also Mayor of Marigot, having succeeded his brother Louis Constant Fleming after his death over ten years earlier.

DSCF0036Elie persuaded Mimi to break her engagement with another man and marry him. Upon his return to St. Martin, he wrote to her every day. Since there was no telephone on the French side, he had to travel to Philipsburg to place a rare call, and soon hooked up with one of the first American homeowners, and tycoon, who nightly contacted Mimi for Elie on his secret ham-radio.

By the time Mimi arrived in 1958 as Elie's bride, he kept his promise by having the first phone installed on his family's estate, Loterie Farm. Mimi recalls the beauty of the garden with its glorious profusion of color. It was a whole new world for her. She remembers hosting Americans at Loterie Farm who were just arriving to the island. Private planes brought the elite, families of the Fortune 500, including the Fawcetts , Douglas's, and celebrities like Benny Goodman and Harry Belefonte, and Jasper Johns who also made their home here.

The waterfront became active with bistros and fine restaurants, small, elegant shops, enticed by the duty-free trade of jewels, fine china, crystal and tobacco. Fashion etiquette was at a high, when women dressed up for lunch and dinner. Parisian designs fancifully arrived and were sought.

The population on the French side jumped from 8,000 in 1980 to 30,000 in 2000 and is now estimated at 37,000.

The filling in of part of the bay enabled an extension of Marigot in the late 1970's, creating a larger city with a marina. In the 1980's, the restoration of Fort Louis was undertaken by a small group of civic leaders; cutting through the rough terrain of cactus grown over the centuries. Even the original canons were air-lifted from all over the island by gendarme helicopters LaVieEnRoseCafeand reunited safely overlooking Marigot's harbor. Daily it beckons the curious to climb the mount and every night it glows majestically above the harbor.

A similar spirit is driving the restoration of many of the historic Creole homes that can be found concentrated along rue de la Republique, known simply as "The Big Street" for many centuries. Families like the Richardson's, Petites, Flemings and Beauperthuys , whose ancestors were some of the first to arrive on these shores, are fueling the surge to protect and maintain the island's patrimony, whose city of Marigot, now in the 21st century, represents one of the most famous capitals in the French West Indies.

Several frequent visitors shared their favorite things to do in Marigot. Their notes recall "strolling down rue de la Republique and stopping for a chocolate at the French chocolatier, Jeff de Bruges; looking at the beautiful Impressionist paintings at the Roland Richardson gallery across the way; photographing the gorgeous French gardens behind the historic houses and ambling up the hill to see Fort Louis.

Also wonderful on the weekends is strolling through the open air spice and vegetable market and stopping for an espresso along the side streets to rest one's feet."

LaVieEnRoseOne family wrote, "We love Marigot for its charm, its Caribbean and European influence. The boutiques offer a variety of high end and moderate merchandise. Our favorite stores are Max Mara, Carre Blanc and Christofle. One of our favorite restaurants, Le Chanteclaire, is located on the marina."

On a personal note, twelve years ago, when I was invited to the lovely corner bistro on Marigot's harbor, famous for it fine cuisine and animated seating, I discovered in more ways than imaginable, La Vie en Rose.

This is a story without end. Marigot is a blend of past and present magic that is waiting to be experienced by all visitors to the island of St. Martin, and should not be missed by any. 

International travel and tourism took another thirty years to evolve, until 1985 when the French law of defiscalization gave tax incentives for French citizens and businesses to invest in the islands of the French West Indies, thus making investment more profitable.  

Many thanks to Cynthie Richardson, Mimi Fleming, Roland Richardson, the "Sur les Traces des Arawaks" Museum in Marigot, the French Office of Tourism, Linda Wellstein, Liz Lynch, Liliana Arrigoni, Randy Jones and Gina Baharani for their special contributions.  

Sir Roland and Laura Richardson happily invite you to discover their beautiful gallery in Marigot at a charming Creole landmark building with private garden. Laura and Sir Roland Richardson would be delighted to hear from you! Please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Magic Jack, Tel: 1.443.982.0683

Visit their beautiful gallery at:
Roland Richardson Gallery Museum
#6 rue de la Republique, Marigot, St. Martin
Where Fine Art, History and Nature Abound! 
Article by Laura Richardson
© Copyright Laura and Roland Richardson 2014