Likomju 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 from the emerging nations of Micronesia to be listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Sites. 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 had 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 Açores and thus a Portuguese) and Adolph Capelle (A German from the Hanseatic city of Hamburg) became business partners in the historically significant Marshallese company, Capelle and Co. Both men married Marshallese women and produced large and influential families. Their social, political and commercial legacies remain highly significant in the Marshall Islands of 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 their Marshallese descendents and 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.
   Although the large timber frame house built in 1904/1905 by Joachim de Brum for his own use is central to this site, many other nearby structures are also highly significant. They include the house Joachim built for Likomju de Brum about 85 metres north of his own house. Using the same highly functional concept of three rooms with a wide veranda on all four sides, Likomju's house differed from the main house in its size and by being built on a poured concrete slab rather than on piers. Every room has an external door and windows, and there are connecting doors between each of the three rooms, providing unrestricted air flow. When surveyed, this property was found to be in a very much poorer condition than was Joachim De Brum's house mainly as a result of its lack of continuing use.
   Forty historically and culturally significant business books were found in a broken plastic container in the southern room. These books comprised ledgers, journals, invoice books, and receipt books associated with the Jaluit Gesellschaft and A. Capelle & Co. and recorded business transactions dating between 1908 and 1920. They had been roughly stacked in a container that was resting in a pool of water, surrounded by corroding tools and decaying rubbish.



Photograph of the Likomju de Brum house from the north east. Note the extent of decay to the verandah and roof.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another photograph of the Likomju de Brum house from the north east.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Likomju de Brum house viewed from the north showing large, formal, Japanese-style fish pond.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Likomju de Brum house viewed from the south west. Note the decaying material stacked on the western verandah.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Likomju de Brum house viewed from the south east. Note the extent of decay in this corner of the house. Heavily corroded roofing iron has failed and water is channeled to this corner of the house.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Closer view of the decay in the south eastern corner of Likomju's house.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Another closer view of decay in the south eastern corner of Likomju's house.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

This oak cupboard was the main item of furniture remaining in the house (there were two other smaller items, a corner stand and a smaller cupboard). Several old photographs were found in the drawers and returned to Leonard de Brum who identified them as being of several de Brum family members and dated from the 1920s and 1930s.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Forty historic business books relating to activities of Jaluit Gesellschaft and A. Capelle & Co. were found decaying in a pile of rubbish in the heavily leaking southern room. All of the books were damp and mouldy.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)

Pending professional curation by the RMIs Historic Preservation Office, the books were moved to elevated wooden palettes and other stands in the parlour to dry and air.
(Photograph 1999 Jon G. O'Neill)


[Atolls of the Marshall Islands]


Bibliographic citation for this document

O'Neill, Jon G. (2002). Likomju 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 on Likiep Atoll. Authorisation to conduct research in the Republic of the Marshall Islands 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
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