By Mac McIntosh and Terry Picard
Unique now among the newer structures, this nearly 100 year old island house shares the out-island design of the classic homes of Man-O-War, Hope Town and Green Turtle Cay.
Built of bullet proof, old-growth Abaco Pine, ‘Termite Terrace’ (as it is called) has defied not only the ravages of its namesake, but those of the many storms and hurricanes over the years. Today, in its pretty white paint and blue shutters, it oversees Guana Harbour from dead-center of the Old Settlement’s Front Street.
Since 1967 “Mr. Mac” McIntosh would take twenty steps out his front door and hand-over-hand haul in his dinghy from its out-haul and row to his sail boat for several hours of delightful and sometimes outright challenging skittering about on the local waters, often challenging another sailor to a friendly race. Back in his front room with binoculars at his side, any interesting wooden boat to enter the harbour was sure to be noted and later to be visited by the charming boatman.
And his home was destination for the visitors, as well. There has always been an intrigue about Termite Terrace, which compelled a look and a hello.
So why has this house survived? Well, the hearty Abaco Pine certainly plays a major role, but the old timers had perfected a construction method worthy of imitation. It stays dry in a driving rainstorm; it stays cool with the slightest breeze; and it has never seen a spot of mold.
What is going on here? For one, the house breaths: it has spaces in the walls and roofing which allow for the flow of air, yet admits no rain. Capillary action and swelling of the cedar shingled roof and a forty-five degree pitch turn out to provide the proper physics for a dry interior. The generous overlapping of the clapboard siding performs equally well.
Study the roof construction and you will get an education into the brilliant minds of the old Abaco builders. The absence of a ridgepole is no disadvantage here: every roof rafter is joined and mortised to its partner and all of these are cross tied with sturdy laths upon which the cedar shingles are applied directly, four and a half inches to the weather.
It is brilliant simplicity with the best use of a minimum of materials. No plywood sheathing, no sheetrock, no insulation….just a natural survivalist of a house. Upon snooping a bit further, you will find the sills upon which she sits are large beams mortised and tree-nailed, (pronounced trunneled), together with one inch wooden dowels.
Indestructible, you might say, the light blue shutters have a most ingenious paneling and are attached to the house with cast iron, rust-defying hinges of the gudgeon and pintle system. The shutters are locked under a wooden overhang, which directs sheeting rain off to the sides – yet another feature which exemplifies the smart, utilitarian approach of the builders. Beauty blends with common sense in every aspect of Termite Terrace.
Mr. Mac, now 101 years young, wishes the very best for his cherished house as she awaits the next phase of her future. Christopher Albury, of Damianos Sotheby’s Realty is helping him find her a way into that future. Will Termite Terrace, the ‘motif number one’ of Guana Cay, continue to represent the very best of the old ways and the genius of the regions building heritage? THAT remains an unanswered question.