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Legendary Jacmel hotel still shuttered while others boom

Marlene Danies, centre, founded La Jacmelienne hotel in the 1970s with then husband, the late Eric Danies. She was photographed in Montreal with her daughter and granddaughter.

Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Project Jacmel update : 'I hope some day my grandchildren can sort it out,' says co-founder

Business at Haiti's hotels is booming thanks to the steady stream of foreign workers and journalists trooping through the country to deliver aid and chart post-earthquake progress. In Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, several hotels that sustained damage in last January's quake reopened last fall and are now charging prime rates for rooms.

La Jacmelienne, the only beachfront hotel in tourist-friendly Jacmel and perhaps the most legendary, is not among them.

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In its heyday it was reviewed by The New York Times and drew international political and cultural elites, but the hotel's rich history has not proven a steady enough foundation to anchor rebuilding efforts, which fizzled.

"I'm afraid we're not even near getting to the next step on that," said Marlene Danies, who built the hotel in the late 1970s with her then husband, the late Eric Danies. Complications with the settling of his estate - made more difficult by a messy divorce followed by a second marriage - left the hotel in limbo before the earthquake caused nearly a million dollars' worth of damage.

Several groups expressed interest in the property in the aftermath, but nothing has come out of the initial talks, made difficult by the fact that Ms. Danies is now living in Montreal with her grown daughter, who also retains part ownership of the hotel. The second Ms. Danies, Marguerite, lives with her young daughters in Jacmel.

The city is preparing to celebrate its first carnival since the earthquake, an annual event that brings hordes of people to the tiny beach town. La Jacmelienne will not be in any shape to host its usual crew.

"Right now, I've just put it out of my mind," Marlene Danies said. "I hope some day my grandchildren can sort it out."

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About the Author
Global food reporter

Jessica Leeder is the Globe’s Atlantic Reporter, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In previous roles, Jessica has reported for the Globe from Afghanistan and post-quake Haiti, assignments for which she won an Emmy and a National Newspaper Award, respectively. She has also written about the politics of global food, entrepreneurialism and small business, and automotive news. More

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