This fragment of local memory was collected in The Galapagos: A brief history (1999), a historical chronicle by Norwegian settler Jacob P. Lundh.
When, at the end of the 40's of the last century, the US military base located on Baltra (or South Seymour) Island was dismantled, a good number of wooden barracks were left uninhabited, deteriorating at the mercy of the sea breeze and the sun. It was then thought that Galapagoan settlers could take advantage of all that material, so it was announced that any family or individual residing on the islands could apply for a house. The former would be awarded the large barracks, while the small ones would remain for the latter. The only condition, apart from residence, was that the interested parties had to disassemble and transport the material by themselves.
Apparently, many took advantage of the offer, including the local Franciscan Mission. For some reason that has not been recorded, an individual with the surname Falconi took over several barracks. With them he was able to build the first hotel in San Cristobal Island: a four-story building that automatically became the tallest in all of Galapagos.
This is how "Baltra pine" became the most popular building material on the islands, displacing adobe, logs and thatched roofs, which until then had been the most common.
Cement blocks had already appeared in Galapagos in 1946, when settler Sigurd Graffer built a shed for Captain Kristian Stampa in Santa Cruz Island. Graffer made the blocks himself, using wooden slats for the molds and empty beer cans found in Baltra's base to create the hollow core of each piece. Given the abundance of the mentioned pine, these blocks would only become a popular building material on the islands in the late 1950s.
[The photograph that illustrates this text belongs to the series of slides by Alfred Croneis. It was taken on Santa Cruz Island in 1943, and shows the traditional construction style in Galapagos before the use of pine wood].
Lundh, Jacob P. The Galapagos: A brief history. [Book]. Galapagos : Jacob P. Lundh, 1999. [N.d.] : col. ill. : [n.d.]. DDC 986. Well preserved.
Text & picture: Edgardo Civallero (email@example.com).
Publication date: 1 October 2022
Last update: 1 October 2022