The Negrense Museum or Balay Negrense in local language is the first museum to be established in the province of Negros Occidental. It is located at Cinco de Noviembre Street in Silay City.
Also called as the Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House, it is one of the most visited houses in the area because it showcases the lifestyle of a 19th century sugar baron.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Balay Negrese Museum was originally the abode of Victor Gaston, who was credited as one of the pioneers of sugarcane cultivation in the region. The construction of the house began in 1897—during Silay’s height as a cultural and economic center.
It became one of the largest houses on the island upon its completion in 1901. Gaston and his family resided there until his death in 1927. The structure was abandoned in the mid-1970s and eventually fell into shabbiness. The remaining heirs of the Gaston family and a group of concerned Negrenses who were later recognized as the Negros Cultural Foundation repaired and furnished the house.
The lifestyle museum was officially inaugurated in October 1990 and was listed a heritage house in March 1994.
The residence turned into a museum has 12 bedrooms and two floors. Similar to most of the houses built in Silay during the late 20th century, the Balay Negrense Museum is a stone house or “bahay na bato.” The structure’s lower storey, however, is made not of stone but of concrete.
The house’s pillars and floor boards are made of iron wood or “balayong”—a sturdy wood impermeable by nails and termites. Its upper storey is also constructed of wood. The structure has a four-meter high ceiling and large and intricately-etched windows and is topped with a galvanized iron rood, instead of tile. Balay Negrense Museum also boasts a spacious garden lined with flowers and old trees dating back to the Spanish era and a water fountain. It is filled with memorabilia and antique items such as the clothes of people during the early 20th century. The house’s kitchen has giant clay jars and old cooking utensils.