Caneel Bay Backtime

Caneel Bay Overview
Caneel Bay Overview 1941 – photo by Jack Delano

After slavery was abolished, the sugar plantation at Caneel Bay declined and reverted to cattle grazing and subsistence farming.

In the 1930s, the West India Company of St. Thomas purchased the approximately 550-acre property. The company, appreciating the natural beauty of the bay, began to operate a modest resort, building three cottages, a small commissary and a narrow wooden dock. After that the company gradually constructed five additional cottages.

In 1935, the Virgin Islands Tourist Company bought the Caneel Bay Estate and the Grand Hotel on St. Thomas and began operation of the motor yacht, Flamingo, which provided service between St. Thomas and St. John. The company ran an advertisement for the resort reading:

Caneel Bay Plantation Resort

Bungalows for rent. Each Bungalow is a self-contained unit, two large rooms and a porch. Equipped withal modern comfort: Bathroom and toilet with running water, electricity installed throughout, radio, fully furnished with comfortable furniture, full supply of linen and towels. Separate kitchen with Frigidaire, oli range and complete equipment of kitchen utensils, silver and china.

Each Bungalow has its own swimming beach. Opportunities for a lovely vacation in unspoiled tropical surroundings with all the comforts of today.

Excellent opportunities for horse-back riding, swimming and fishing.

Operated in conjunction with the Grand Hotel, St. Thomas. Interchange of guests between Hotel and bungalows arranged,

Write: The Virgin Islands Tourist Company or the leading Travel Bureaus for further information and reservation.

In 1946, the property was acquired by the Trigo brothers from Puerto Rico and four more cottages were built bringing the total to twelve.

The Caneel Bay commissary was described in the 1960 book, Some True Tales and Legends about Caneel Bay, by Charlotte Dean Stark:

In the thirties and forties, the housekeeping cottages were for rent, all except #8, which was the manager’s cottage. Everything but food was included – electricity from the Caneel Bay Power Plant, all furnishings, and a St. John maid. Food was bought at the commissary by the maid, or by the lady if she felt like choosing her own groceries. The commissary was described by one visiting cottager as a little country store. Natives from all over the island, as well as the dozen or more cottage guests, bought there, as did the half dozen continental families then living on St. John.

There would sometimes be as many as twenty-five people all trying to buy at once. That was a crowd in those days.

During this time the resort raised cows, chickens and goats to supply meat, milk and eggs. Horses were also available for transportation to Cruz Bay and for use by resort guests.

The Trigo Brothers listed the property, along with its seven beautiful beaches and the profitable cottage colony for $75,000

Until Laurence Rockefeller obtained the estate in 1952, rumors abounded as to the ultimate fate of the parcel, some of which were prophetic.
In Desmond Holdridge’s 1937 account of life on St. John, Escape to the Tropics, he wrote:

Agnes (Agnes Sewer) said that some “Dane men” had bought Caneel Bay, a beautiful abandoned estate a couple of miles farther west, and were going to run it for tourists.

“”Bout sixty thousand people comin’, I expect,” said Agnes, happy thinking of the money, but sad thinking of the strangers and the changes they will make.

I reassured her.

“Not very many are coming, Agnes. Hjalmar Bang is doing it, and he is just going to build a few houses where white folks that enjoy privacy can live. No hotel, no hot dog stands, no nonsense. It won’t change very much.”

St John News and Happenings

Virgin Islands Daily News
Paddle the Park Race

ST. JOHN – The Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park’s Paddle the Park Race will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday at Maho Bay Pavilion. (Note: the race has been postponed to November 9) This paddleboard race will consist of two concurrent courses: the OPEN course from Maho Bay to Whistling Cay and back (about 3 miles); and the ELITE course from Maho, around Whistling Cay, then around Cinnamon and back around Whistling Cay and back to Maho (about 5.5 miles).

Full details can be found on the Friends website.

Phone and online registration are open. Early registration fees (until today) are $60 for adults and $30 for youths under 18. Late registration (Saturday until 2 p.m. at the Friends of the Park Store only) are $80 for adults and $50 for youths. There will be no registration on the day of the event.

Participants may register online, by phone at 779-4940, or at the Friends of the Park store or office in Mongoose Junction, at Connections Cruz Bay or Coral Bay, or at Caribbean Surf Co. in Havensight or Red Hook.

NOAA Grant Helps with Sedimentation Research
By Lynda Lohr — November 2, 2013

Thanks to a $76,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a study by a researcher from the University of San Diego on how sedimentation impacts coral reefs will continue on St. John.

San Diego marine sciences professor Sarah Gray started looking at sedimentation in the waters around St. John in 2007. While that work will continue with this grant, she said it also covers work by Carlos Ramos-Scharron of the University of Texas at Austin, who Gray said studies the runoff that enters each watershed impacting Coral Harbor.

“For the first time there is integration between marine sedimentation and watershed runoff,” she said.

Using Stimulus Funds grants, Gray and her team of students were able to determine that, at some sites in the Coral Harbor waters, sedimentation decreased after the Coral Bay Community Council installed sedimentation ponds, repaired roads and did other work to cut down on the amount of sediment that runs into Coral Harbor from the steep hillsides that surround it. The restoration work was done between 2009 and 2011.

Since then, there hasn’t been a large amount of rain, a fact that keeps visitors happy but doesn’t help the project…


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