Remembering Water Island
Please Register / Login to take part in discussions about the Virgin Islands.
I lived and married on Water Island and now live for the past 13 years in England with my wife Marisa whom I married under the pavillion I built with friends.
Would be interested in hearing from anyone on Water Island to find how things are, and with the chance of comming one day for a visit and to show our now teenage children were we meet.
Thanks for any info
Bill and Marisa Lauber
I have been a resident of Water Island for the past 12 years.
I imagine you would find the island considerably changed if you were here when the Hotel was in operation. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated the Virgin Islands, and the Hotel and most of its related structures were destroyed--the Beach Bar, dive operation, marina, etc were all heavily damaged, and have since been mostly demolished and removed. Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 finished what Hugo started, wiping out most of the Hotel villas by Flamingo Bay Lagoon. The Beach Bar pavilion still stands, and was repaired to some extent by the VI Government at the time that Water Island was transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Virgin Islands, but there is nobody running any bar there, and the structure is open to weekend rental by groups and individuals wishing to use it for private parties, weddings, etc.
If you recall the terms of the operation of the Hotel, you'll remember that Walter Phillips originally purchased the lease of the entire island from the US Government (Dept of the Interior) in 1952, with the agreement that he would develop the island. He did so, starting the Hotel and subletting lots to individuals who built vacation homes here. In the mid 1960's, Mr Phillips sold his Master Lease to Edward McArdle, who continued running the Hotel and expanded it. The Hotel went through a couple of name changes and subleasings, but eventually came back to McArdle. Walter Phillips remained active in the running of the Island, but was no longer the Master Leaseholder. In 1989, Hugo hit and wiped out most of the infrastructure, leaving the island considerably battered. The Civic Association grew stronger at this time, as Mr McArdle, knowing that the leases expired in 1992, simply took his insurance money and decamped, leaving the islanders high and dry without any support services. Members of the community took over repair and maintenance of the beach, roads, roadsides, etc. In 1992, the leases expired, and the homeowners spent the next few years arguing with the Federal Government over a fair purchase price for the land they had built on. An agreement was reached in 1996, and eventually most homeowners purchased their land. The island was formally transferred to the Virgin Islands on December 12, 1996 (Transfer Day).
Today, there is nothing standing on the knoll where the Hotel once stood, except for the remains of a tennis court and a few palms, plus a couple of private homes which survived the storms. The small "lighthouse" structure at the marina, as well as all of the marina buildings, are all gone. The ferry dock was trashed in Hurricane Georges in 1998, and has yet to be rebuilt, though funds have been allocated. We use a floating temporary dock at this time. As I write this, the Bureau of Reclamation is completing agreed-upon cleanup of the villa area, demolishing about 10 ruined villas and removing the debris. All land that once belonged to the Hotel and wasn't purchased by private individuals now belongs to the Virgin Islands, and we now pay property taxes and are full residents of the VI.
The island is still beautiful--one of the best-kept secrets in the Virgin Islands, as we have so little exposure and hence many people know little about Water island. As a result, we have virtually no crime, and we have developed a very strong community, where people look out for each other and everyone pretty much knows everyone else. We are seeing signs of development as some of the older homeowners have died or moved to the States and their homes have been sold, and new residents move in and renovate or rebuild some of the damaged homes. We're pretty much back to normal now, after the storms, but you can still find ruined homes on the island. Real estate has become desirable, and prices are pretty high since there's a good demand for homes here. I have sold 13 properties in the last couple of years (I'm a property manager for about 35 homes on the island, and hold a Realtor's license as well), and we have only a few listings left at this time, as there's not much turnover. The last few years have seen a decrease in hurricane activity, which has given us much-needed time to rebuild and restore the island. I personally find it the best of all places to live--I may be a bit biased!-- I love the peace and quiet, the friendly and caring neighbors, and the generally easygoing pace and attitude here. We have few goods or services--no police, fire department, schools, stores, or restaurants--but we are working on forming a volunteer fire department, a resident has started a licensed mobile food service which serves lovely dinners and lunches on Honeymoon Beach every weekend, the Civic Association looks after general beautification and interacts with the local government on issues important to WaterIislanders, and we have full US Postal service through the new mail facility at the ferrydock. We have a book exchange, the islanders have built a float for entry in the Carnival parade for the past couple of years, and we are fond of potluck dinners, cocktail parties, and ice cream socials on the beach. All in all, a pretty laid-back place!
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions--if you ever get the chance to visit, let me know, as I do handle a few rental homes here on Water Island, and could probably help you find a place to stay. If you want me to forward some photos of the island, let me know, as I have a large collection of photos on file in my computer for real estate purposes, and would be happy to send some to you.
Thank you for your reply and for the updates. I happened to be away on business in London and will write more to your email address.
I was on Water Island from 1978 to 1985 when we moved to Grand Cayman to run the Kon Tiki for John Reeve.
Had the beach bar after the Sea Cliff went into liquidation and made a deal with Ed McArdle and leased it for 4 years, he supplied the materials for the 'pavilion' and I supplied the drawings for the beach bar which he had built.
We were married under the 'pavilion' in 1984 and Phillip and Floride where in attendance, my best man was an Joel Marsh who's home was distroyed in one of the hurricans, I helped him build it....
Marisa and I lived at the Lingo Louder house with the multi directions sign, then the Persall house next to Murry's then into the house between the Persall's and Murry's, made of ceader, I understand that it was also distroyed.
Marisa's maid was Cass of Jim and Cass Stewart that managed Limestone Reef Hotel, after Bill and Nancy, all in Florida now.
Do you know Holland Van Gores, we understand he has twins now.
I will send some pictures when I get back to Harrogate.
Thank you again
Bill and Marisa Lauber
I lived and worked for Ed McArdle on Water Island in the early 80's when I was 20 years old.
I hear you have some information on rentals.
I would like to get any information and/or old pictures you have.
Please contact me at my e-mail address:
I look forward to hearing from you.
Bill and Marisa - I am glad to hear you are both fine and raising a family - I remember many times together at Barnacle Bills - Bill and Judy are still here and are well - some of the other old WI and sub-base folks are still around - and you would feel right at home if you visit and ask around - Crown Bay is a thriving little area and the WI ferry is based there - much different than your time here with 'Chief' cooking in his little food shack - google map that place now! - STT has evolved and there is a cruise ship dock in Crown Bay now - but the old times were filled with the best mix of eccentric and interesting characters that could never be replicated for sure.
Our beloved friend and neighbor, Mary Coe, lost the battle with cancer on December 14, 2011. Her husband, Randy Coe continues to property manage our home Flamingo Point USVI as well as many rental properties on Water Island. If you'd like Randy's contact information, please send a PM. Thanks!
I just realized the post was 10 years old -- talk about archival search function. Wow.
I did not know, and am very sorry to hear, that Mary Coe has died. It is very sad news...
Thank you for all the details on Water Island.
I was there many times in the 60's.
Came when Edward McArdle bought the hotel property.
Big event. Special copy of one of Columbus's boats was sailed in from Europe.
Many interesting people there.
It was magnificent. I am looking for old photos of the hotel and Island.