Balcony House is about 220 years old and is the oldest existing wooden residential building in The Bahamas. The balcony, from which the House derives its name, overlooks Market St. (formerly Prison Lane), supported by wooden knee braces--a signature architectural feature of the 18th century loyalists. The Central Bank of The Bahamas acquired the House in 1985, and later commenced its restoration. In conjunction with the Department of National Archives, the property was opened as the Balcony House Museum in 1994.
The years 1775 - 1783 saw the coming of a new immigrant group to the Bahamas, the loyalists. It was also about this time, we believe, that this structure, which today we refer to as Balcony House, was constructed.
The 1788 plan of Nassau identifies lot numbers 14 & 15, with a structure on it; the property, at that time, was owned by a Mrs. Mary Hardy who lived there with her husband, Dr. William Hardy, and their three daughters, Sarah, Cicely and Ann.
A copy of Mrs. Hardy's will, dated 1795, shows that she left the property to her three daughters who were all married at the time.
In 1816, the property was sold by auction, by Provost Marshall, Mr. William Baliss, to Mrs. Isabella Deane and Mr. Roger Moore who later married and took up residence.
In 1841, however, Mrs. Isabella Deane-Moore and her husband, Roger Moore, sold the house to Mr. Stephen Dillet, a native of Haiti who came to the Bahamas with his mother, Hester Argo, and his two brothers. The son of reputed French Army officer, Ettienne Dillet, Stephen made a great impact on Bahamian History. In 1833, Stephen Dillet became the first coloured person in the history of The Bahamas to win an election as the representative for the Town of Nassau, winning seven consecutive elections.
In 1851, Mr. Dillet was appointed to the post of Post Master General, as well as Inspector of the Police Force, at that time the highest ranking position in the Force. Mr. Stephen Dillet was also a leading figure in free masonry, heading what is now known as the Royal Victoria Lodge. He was also a vestryman in Christ Church Cathedral, a community leader and successful businessman. At one point, Mr. Dillet also served as the Coroner of the Bahamas.
Mr. Stephen Dillet died in 1880 at Balcony House. He bequeathed the property to his wife, Charlotte, and his daughter, Charlotte Augusta.
In 1899, Stephen Dillet’s widow Charlotte died, leaving their daughter, Charlotte Augusta, as the sole owner of the property.
Charlotte Augusta Dillet died in 1913. The house was willed to Mr. Alexander Martin Cunningham, friend and nephew-in-law, of Mrs. Charlotte Dillet.
Mr. Cunningham died in 1943, and the property sold as was his wish with the proceeds repatriated to his sister in London.
On 31st January 1944, the property was conveyed to the Victory Hall Corporation. In the same year it was mortgaged for the sum of £1,000 to Bahamas Investments Ltd.
Soon after the mortgage settlement in 1947, the property was leased to the Hon. William Maxwell Aitken, Baron of Beaverbrook and Cherkley. The property was later sold to Mrs. Marie Josephine Bryce, a wealthy American woman and heiress to the chain of A & P food-stores in the U.S.A.
Mrs. Bryce hired Grace Richards Inc., a New York interior design firm, to redesign the interior of the House. By the mid 1970s, Mrs. Bryce had stopped visiting The Bahamas, leaving the House in care of her maid, Mrs. Rosalie Armbrister.
In 1985, the Central Bank of The Bahamas acquired Balcony House and its property.
The Ministry of Public Works began restoration of the property, with the costs fully underwritten by the Central Bank of The Bahamas.
The Central Bank of the Bahamas partnered with the Department of National Archives, opened Balcony House as a The Balcony House Museum in 1994.
The Balcony House Museum is open to the public from Monday to Friday free of charge. In collaboration with the AMMC tours are being offered to inform about the long and rich history of this national monument.