The Joachim de Brum House.
Likiep Village Historic Site,
Republic of the Marshall Islands.

A Photo Essay
by Jon G. O'Neill


   The Likiep Village Historic Site on Likiep Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands was the first site in the emerging Nations of Micronesia to be listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Sites and the Joachim de Brum house is its centrepoint. The following photographs were taken by the author in 1999 as part of his research for a Post-graduate Honours degree from Charles Sturt University, Australia.
   Parts of Micronesia have been controlled by colonial authorities from the late 1500s. In the northern Pacific Spain was first, followed by Germany, Japan and the United States of America. Although claimed by Spain, the Marshall Islands remained self-governing until the brief and rapid expansion of German trading and colonial interests in the Pacific. Germany's expansion was followed by an even more rapid contraction when Japan entered the First World War as an ally of Great Britain. All of Germany's Pacific colonies were lost within a few months, most being annexed by Japan, but some also being taken by Australia and New Zealand.
   In the mid 1800s, José de Brum (born in the A&ccutil;ores and therefore Portuguese) and Adolph Capelle (a German from the Hanseatic city of Hamburg) became business partners in the historically significant Marshallese company, A. Capelle and Co. Both men married Marshallese women, producing large and influential families whose social, political and commercial legacies remain highly significant in the Marshall Islands today. During the time of German hegemony, the Capelle and de Brum partnership continued, although not without its difficulties. When Japan took control, the business was able to continue trading because it was owned and operated by the Marshallese descendents of the two men and it was thus a legitimate Marshallese operation. By this time Likiep Atoll had become central to the Capelle/de Brum commercial empire and much tangible historic property directly associated with it remains today.
   Of particular interest to the historical preservationist is the large timber frame house built in 1904/1905 by Joachim, eldest son of Jose de Brum. This house is built largely of Californian redwood planks that were so large they were shipped to Likiep strapped to the outside hulls of sailing vessels. It consists of three large rooms surrounded by an extensive verandah some 3 metres wide. Every room has an external door and windows, and there are connecting doors between each of the three rooms, providing unrestricted air flow. A high peaked roof allows hot air to be collected away from the rooms and vented through two large doorways at the northern and southern ends of the roof. The eastern side of the verandah bears the brunt of the prevailing weather, For its protection, Joachim de Brum designed and built a unique system of sliding glass and timber panels that can be adjusted to suit the weather conditions.
   Several other structures are closely associated including other houses, several water cisterns, a photographic darkroom and a large storeshed. A separate dining room and kitchen were built approximately 30 metres to the south east. Although still standing in 1984 it was destroyed by a strong tropical storm in the late 1980s.


The house built by Joachim de Brum dwarfs all others on Likiep. Originally built on low concrete supports, it was later raised onto tall timber supports giving almost 2 metres headroom under the house. View from the south west.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the house from the west. Notice the broad path of crushed coral that is becoming overgrown, and the coral block edging.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the solid timber supports used by Joachim to raise his house c.1915.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another view of the timber supports used to raise the house. Notice the appearance of some graffiti and the repair work done to the joists and supports in 1976 during the first rehabilitation project.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View from the south west. Note the protective covering fastened to the verandah with timber and nails. A micro-climate has been established beneath the rubber-backed canvas that is highly conducive to termite activity. Consequently, termites were observed to have infested the entire length of this side of the verandah.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Example of the damage being done by termites that is occurring under the rubberised canvas.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

The north eastern corner of the verandah showing rot in the sliding window rails, and termite and rot damage to verandah flooring. View from south east.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Note the different size of timber used to replace part of the original flooring. Californian Redwood timber of the same size (12 inches by 1 inch) and quality as that originally used by Joachim de Brum in 1905 was no longer available. What was available in 1976 is deteriorating much more quickly than the original. View from north eastern corner.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Sliding windows have been removed from their frames and stacked on the eastern verandah.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Removal of these windows has allowed unrestricted access by the weather (damp, salt, wind and hot sun) to rails. Windows could be moved along these rails to permit free movement of air while also providing protection from the elements.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the northern end of the main house. Note the corrosion on roof capping, which is probably galvanic from the combination of corrugated iron ridge capping and aluminium sheets. There are also sheets of roofing material that have detached from the peak and other sheets were observed to be loose.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the southern end of the building showing aluminium roofing material with corroding galvanised iron capping. Also note the rubberised canvas material again used to protect the verandah, together with some plastic sheeting.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the large cistern built by Joachim de Brum and restored during the preservation Project in 1984.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

These twin cisterns are no longer used for water storage and are instead being used to compost waste vegetative material.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another view under the house showing water staining and apparent insect damage.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

All that remains of the Dining Room and Kitchen. This combined building was in disrepair in 1984, but still standing. However, a severe storm in the late 1980s (probably combined with adaptive reuse of material) brought about its final demolition.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

View of the storeshed built by Joachim de Brum about 20 metres south of the house. Originally built of corrugated iron, the shed was largely rebuilt during the restoration project in 1976 using vertical, lapped planks of Californian Redwood for the walls and an asphalt based material for the roof. View from the north west.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Storeshed viewed from the south west.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

A closer view of the roof showing how the asphalt based material has failed in the tropical heat and now sags between its supports. Several large holes and cracks permit water entry. View from the north west.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Termites have also begun to affect the storeshed and are clearly evident. Note that the vertical strakes are missing from this section of the storeshed. View of north east corner from the north.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

A closer view of the shed wall showing the lap and strake fashion of construction. Note the sand and soil splatter from water running off the roof during heavy rain. View of north west corner from the north.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

The timber floor of the storeshed has rotted in places and floor joists are probably also rotten.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

José de Brum is buried wth his wife Likemoto on Entrance Island, a small island near the main shipping entrance to Likiep. Local tradition is that a close Marshallese friend is buried in the earthen grave immediately behind that of José and outlined with bottles.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

In memory of a remarkable man.
Joachim de Brum.
Born on Jaluit February 22, 1860.
Died on Likiep January 10, 1937.
"That man Joachim, he know everything!"

(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)




[Atolls of the Marshall Islands]


Bibliographic citation for this document

O'Neill, Jon G. (2002). The Joachim de Brum House. Likiep Village Historic Site, Republic of the Marshall Islands-- A Photo Essay. URL: http:/marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/ONeill_Essays\JDB_House.htm

CONTACT:
Jon G. O'Neill Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: jooneill@csu.edu.au
OR:
Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au

Acknowledgement
Permission was sought and obtained from Leonard de Brum to research his father, Joachim de Brum, and to survey the family home in Likiep Village, Likiep Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Authorisation to conduct research in the RMI was obtained from the Honorable Mr. Hiroshi Yamamura, Minister of Internal Affairs and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Yokwe and komol tata.



Jon G. O'Neill 2002
select from the following...