West End, Grand Bahama
|Town Area of West End|
West End was a popular site during the Alcohol Prohibition era of the USA
|• Chairperson||Jerreth Rolle|
|Elevation||10 m (30 ft)|
|Time zone||Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5)|
West End (also referred to as "Settlement Point") is the oldest town and westernmost settlement on the Bahamian island of Grand Bahama. It is the current capital of Grand Bahama, contrary to the popular belief that Freeport City is the capital of the island. It is also the third largest settlement in the Bahamas. There is one airport in West End, West End Airport, which serves mostly private aircraft. Since the 1950s, the settlement of West End has fluctuated with the rise and fall of the adjacent resort developments.
The Bahamas were first inhabited by the Lucayan people in 500-800AD. It is unknown if the Lucayan people inhabited West End specifically. However, after the arrival of Columbus and Spanish explorers, the Lucayan people went extinct by 1520.
Records from West End show that the population in 1836 was only about 370 people, many of whom later abandoned the island for greater opportunities in Nassau. But in 1861 people flocked back to Grand Bahama because of an unexpected economic opportunity—the American Civil War. At the outbreak of the war, with the Confederacy of Southern States under a strict Union embargo, smugglers operating out of West End were able to command hefty prices from the South for goods such as cotton, sugar, and weapons. As soon as the war ended, the economic boom ended as well, but it established strong ties between the Bahamas and the United States that still exist.
A second smuggling boom came a few decades later when the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol in the United States. West End achieved notoriety as a rum-running port during this prohibition. Warehouses, distilleries, bars, and supply stores sprang up all over West End. Eventually prohibition ended, the economy contracted and people started fishing again.
Fishing and tourism remain the two major industries of the West End economy.
West End is known for its world-class fishing. The location allows sport fishing enthusiasts to easily access shallow or deep-water options within a few nautical miles.
The north side of the island is part of the Bahama Banks and has very shallow water, making it a popular destination for bonefishing. Legendary bonefish guide Israel Rolle, known as "Bonefish Folley", died in July 2012. He guided bonefishing clients like Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Richard Nixon. Local fisherman also catch red snapper, spiny lobster and conch. The West End is known for its conch salad
Around the tip of West End, the water on the south side of the island drops to a deep trench not far from the shoreline. The Gulf Stream runs through this trench, attracting big game fish to the smaller prey that are carried along. Offshore sport fisherman are drawn to the blue marlin, white marlin, yellow-fin and blue-fin tuna, sailfish, wahoo and dolphin (Mahi Mahi).
West End is only 55 nautical miles from the Florida coast and has a long history as a resort destination because of its accessibility. For most boaters entering Bahamian waters from the United States, it is the first port of call. West End is also serviced by the local West End Airport and Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport.
Tourism and foreign investment have been attracted to the natural beauty of the beaches and water, the warm climate, British rule of law and a stable financial system (the currency is pegged to the US dollar).
Jack Tar Village
Tourism first started on Grand Bahama Island in 1949 when an Englishman built a small holiday camp for his vacationing countrymen. The camp did not succeed, but by the late 50s development in West End started to create the Jack Tar Village resort, which opened in 1960. This predates resorts in Freeport and Lucaya. The large 356-room resort had three 9-hole golf courses, 16 tennis courts, a half-million gallon saltwater swimming pool (the Bahamas' largest), a huge auditorium for live shows, a shopping arcade, several restaurants, a 100-slip marina and an airport. The 10,000-foot runway received charter flights from as far away as the Midwest and, at its peak, several flights from Canada each week. Denis Berthelet, with Johnny Simard and Johnny Valenti, played music with a group called The Crescendos in the beginning of the '70s. Denis, who was a great musician, died in 2006. His two sons, Stephan and Michael, are good musicians too.
Jack Tar closed in the early 1990s and was partially demolished there after.
Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour
In 1999, the marina was purchased by New York-based Holding Capital Group which renamed it Old Bahama Bay. Significant renovations followed, including complete refurbishment of the docks, many new canals cut for luxury home sites, and 72 luxury condos. In August 2012, the condo owners of Old Bahama Bay selected a new operator to manage the marina and the 73 condo rentals. The hotel and marina are open and fully operational despite the closure of the adjacent Ginn sur Mer project. Stuart Cove has set up a dive operation on site and the resort offers a full range of fishing and other water related activities.
Ginn Sur Mer Expansion
In 2004, Florida-based developer Bobby Ginn acquired 2,000 acres of land from Charlie Sammons an insurance mogul from Dallas, Texas including the marina, airport, restaurants and beach facilities of Old Bahama Bay and other land along 5 miles of beachfront. Holding Capital retained ownership of the westernmost portion of the island. Ginn managed the rental program for the 73 condo suites and operated the marina, airport and restaurants at Old Bahama Bay as part of a larger marketing program.
From 2006 to 2008, Ginn carried out an ambitious marketing and development program for a massive expansion at Old Bahama Bay. The future development, called Ginn Sur Mer, envisioned a palatial, $4.9 billion master-planned development, with five-star amenities, and 6,000 new homes and condo hotel units. During this time, Ginn sold approximately 200 home sites and invested over $500M to build canals, a mega-yacht marina basin, an Arnold Palmer golf course, an airport and over 800 serviced home sites.
The mega-project was financed by Ginn's financial partner, Lubert Adler, and a mega-loan syndicated by Credit Suisse. In 2008, Ginn and Lubert Adler defaulted on the loan provided by Credit Suisse. In November 2011, the foreclosure resulted in Credit Suisse taking ownership of 1,500 acres of property within the development and over 600 serviced home sites. Lubert Adler also cut ties with Bobby Ginn, who is no longer involved with the project. Various development plans are now being considered for the entire project.
Blue Marlin Cove Condominiums and Marina
In 2012, the Blue Marlin Cove Marina was reopened in the Bootle Bay Development on the south side of West End. This marina and condominium development caters to the US fisherman arriving by boat. Bonefish Folley & Sons Guided Services announced that they are offering sport fishing service out of Blue Marlin Cove.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2010-07-18). "Station SPGF1 - Settlement Point, GBI". NOAA. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- Edward Jewitt Wheeler; Isaac Kaufman Funk; William Seaver Woods; Arthur Stimson Draper; Wilfred John Funk (July 2, 1921). "A Bootlegger's Paradise in the Bahamas". The Literary Digest (New York, New York: FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY) LXX (i): 36. Retrieved June 19, 2010. "They rejoice in the belief that in the past twelve months an average of 10,000 cases have left these islands every week, and that 90 per cent of them has safely been conveyed to the parched American throat."
- Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board (2010-07-18). "Grand Bahama Island Facts & Figures". Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- "World Gazetteer: Bahamas: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population". Archived from the original on December 5, 2012.
- "Bahama Islands New Site for NVA Convention April 21–24". Billboard (New York, New York: Nielsen Business Media, Inc.) LXVI (xiv): 61. March 7, 1960. ISSN 0006-2510. "The (Grand Bahama) Club is the latest of nine Jack Tar hotels and opened in February (1960)"
- Hotel Online (May 23, 2001). "After a 20-year Dormant Period, The Former Jack Tar Resort Resurrected as Old Bahama Bay in West End, Grand Bahama Island". Hospitality Internet Media, L.L.C. dba Hotel Online. Retrieved June 18, 2010.