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Hotels with a Past

Hotel With A Past: The Buccaneer in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

It’s only ninety square miles, but St. Croix is a world away from most other Caribbean islands. Only 50,000 people live there, but it’s full of history. While visiting, we discovered The Buccaneer—a true hotel with a past. It’s full of history, and some people would argue it embodies the tradition of this island.

The Buccaneer, one of the Historic Hotels of America, has been a part of the island almost as long as the island has been a part of the United States. In fact, 2017 marks St. Croix’s 100-year celebration as a part of the U.S.

Before it was purchased by the United States, the island had six other owners: the Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Knights of Malta, and Denmark.

Thanks to its many owners, the island is a multicultural melting pot, having hosted diverse residents throughout its history. That list includes one of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. He was born in what was then the British West Indies and moved to the mainland in 1772 when he was just 17.

The island’s other great claims to fame are the national parks and monuments, which includes Buck Island Reef. Five miles off the coast of Christiansted, St. Croix, this tiny island lures both locals and visitors with over 180 plant species and wildlife including birds, lizards, and sea turtles. This land in particular has evolved from sugar factory to cattle ranch to the hotel that exists here today.

The land has seen many owners over the years. The first building on the land, the French Great House, was constructed in 1633 by the Knights Of Malta. Later, it was turned into a sugar factory and the sugar mill was erected.

At these mills, sugarcane stalks were crushed to extract sugar cane juice. This juice was used to produce sugar, molasses, and of course…rum!

Founded by Malcolm Skeoch in 1750, the Cruzan Rum distillery has been supplying the island with rum for nearly five generations. In fact, the majority of vintage cocktails at The Buccaneer are still made with this rum. We took a quick trip to the historic distillery to see where this product originated. In the earlier days of The Buccaneer, visitors from the mainland United States—referred to as “continentals” by the Cruzan natives—often helped mix their own cocktails.

From cattle ranch to sugar mill to hotel, The Buccaneer has developed into one of the most historic hotels in the United States. In fact, everywhere you look, you’re coming up against history. The people at the hotel will be happy to show you. In fact, they’ll lead tours. They’re archaeologists instead of just hoteliers. That’s how you really find a hotel with a past.

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By Peter Greenberg for