CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands -- St. Thomas opened the French Heritage Museum July 17, a museum chronicling the years of French culture on the island, in a three-room building that had sat bereft in the Frenchtown section here since Hurricane Marilyn blew off its roof in 1995.

Volunteers renovated the site, which had been used in the past as a firehouse, a preschool and kindergarten facility and a medical clinic. Locals donated more than 275 heirlooms relating to the French presence in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which dates from the mid-19th century when an influx of families immigrated from St. Barts and St. Martin after several hurricanes were followed by years of drought.

Artifacts include a carved mahogany bed frame, an old map of Paris and 80-year-old meat hooks that belonged to the local butcher. Histories of local families will be stored in a computer accessible to the public.

The museum is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call (340) 774-2320.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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