Salt Cay Publishing

A Family Island

Sale price Price $21.48 Regular price

ISBN: 9780971526006
Publisher: Salt Cay Publishing
Publication Date: 2002-03-10
Number of pages: 114
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It is a dream of many to own one's very own tropical private island, where one can escape the worries of everyday life into an isolated setting filled with palm trees, hammocks, miles of sandy white beaches and a staff to service every need.

Salt Cay, a spoon-shaped island near Nassau in the Bahamas, was one such place. For much of the 20th century it was a virtually perfect tropical paradise for a Chicago-based family that owned it. Purchased in 1916 by Chicago Tribune political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon, it became one of the most famous private islands of the era, featured in newspapers and magazines as the embodiment of what everyone dreams of at some point in their lives. The guest book filled with names like the Duke of Windsor and King Paul of Greece, literary figures such as James Thurber and William Styron, and other luminaries such as Vice President Charles Dawes, aviator Charles Lindburgh and singer James Taylor.

If an architect could have created a flawless tropical island, it wouldn't have been much different than Salt Cay. Spoon-shaped and 3 ½ miles long, it contained a protected lagoon at the wide end, nearly two miles of beaches along the edges, a manicured interior covered by a shady canopy of coconut palms, hibiscus bushes and concrete pathways leading to a half dozen houses for guests and staff. Electricity was pointedly non-existent, eliminating the possibility of radios or electronic communication devices - news from the Outside World arrived only sporadically. Light emanated from kerosene lamps, and food was refrigerated and cooked using kerosene and later, propane. Water was supplied by a system of cisterns that collected rain. The primitive quality added to the island's romantic nature, as well as keeping costs down. And all this was within an easy reach of the amenities of Nassau.

But as the decades wore on and the family grew, the stresses of ownership proved to be an increasing burden. When the Bahamas went up the property taxes skyrocketed; finding good staff became more difficult for the meager wages the family could afford; family members sometimes feuded over scheduling conflicts; and the cost of maintaining the island quadrupled in only two decades. John T. died in 1949 and his wife, Evelyn, ran the island for nearly the next thirty years until her death in 1977. After her passing the family decided to sell the island to a developer. Today Salt Cay, now renamed Blue Lagoon Island, is a major tourist attraction for visitors to Nassau.

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