BRITISH AND UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS HISTORICAL IMAGES AND FACTS

Road Harbour c. 1930-40. This wonderful photograph shows Sandy Bay Road Harbour in the early 1900’s. The most dominant building in the bay is the Governor’s residence which today is the Old Government House Museum. During this period the building was known as ‘Olympus’ by local residents because it was on a hill and housed the most powerful individual in the then Colony. Today the museum is barely noticeable amongst the large edifices which have been constructed in Road Harbour, illustrating the dramatic changes that have taken place during the last century.


 

Taken 102 years ago in 1911, this photograph shows the ‘Black Diamonds’ loading a ship’s bunkers at the West India dock in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Today, this dock is known as Havensight and is host to hundreds of cruise ships each year whose passengers shop in the mall area which once bunkered thousands of tons of coal. Each basket carrier would have a brass token on their side with a number. Every basket they loaded was attributed to their individual number by the ‘Tally Man’ and they were paid per basket at the end of the day.  


Subsequent to emancipation in 1834 and the premature termination of the Apprenticeship system in 1838, Virgin Islanders experienced a freedom which, as creolized enslaved plantation laborers, they had never had in the past.  When full freedom was obtained, many younger Virgin Islanders flocked to the metropolis of St. Thomas where in Charlotte Amalie they found ready work loading the cavernous bunkers of steam ships with coal. This paid ready cash and for Virgin Islands women provided a level of financial freedom never experienced in the past. These women were known as the ‘Black Diamonds’ and can be seen in this photograph posing proudly as free independent women of the Virgin Islands. 


 




This early 1970’s image of the Bitter End Yacht Club in North Sound Virgin Gorda shows the original five cottages built in the 1960’s by Basil Symonette, son of the first Premier of the Bahamas Sir Roland Theodore Symonette (who was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 1959). Purchased by the Hokin family in 1973, the Bitter End Yacht Club has grown to become one of the most exclusive resorts in the Caribbean and a haven for visiting sailors.   

Beef Island 1951. Today this is the beginning of the runway at the T. B. Lettsome Airport. In the past, this land was utilized by the local population of East End as a provision ground growing a variety of staple crops for consumption and sale at the local Saturday market in Road Town. It was also in this area that the legendary Mrs. Brodie lived whose tomb was destroyed during the construction of the airstrip. In the distance can be seen a British warship at anchor with the sister islands on the horizon behind. 

 

Road Harbour Tortola c. 1968/69 when Wickhams Cay was being landfilled with dredge material from the newly enlarged ferry approach channel. 


 

Road Harbour 1977. The Wickhams Cay landfill project is complete however the Government Administration Building has not yet been started. The Police Marine Base and the Royal BVI Yacht Club have also not yet been built, whilst the marina that now houses Tortola Marine Management (TMM) is under construction.