Vena’s Guesthouse in Roseau, which had occupied Jean Rhys’ childhood home on Cork Street, Roseau, has closed its doors after several decades of operation. The building, now empty, has a new owner interested in preserving, in a yet unspecified way, its history as the home of the island’s best known writer. SHAPE, Dominica’s historical preservation association, is keen to make sure that the building is protected and not destroyed to make way for a new construction.
A chance encounter on Cork Street with Dominican poet Anthony Leo E. Toulon, born and raised across the street from Rhys’ home, revealed a curious anecdote about the house in the 1960s, prior to becoming Vena’s Guesthouse. The then owners kept two cows and a ring-nosed bull in the small back yard, which they shared with an old and majestic mango tree. Curious tenants, indeed, for the relatively small house located well within the center of Roseau. Carts of grass from Bath Estate in the outskirts of town were brought in every afternoon, and the cows would be milked every morning, Toulon recalls.