Those of us who love to know the history of a place will find The Bucaneer and St. Croix absolutely enchanting. The history of both is inextricably tied to the history of sugar. The minute you arrive at The Buccaneer for your own taste of true Caribbean luxury, one of the first features you’ll notice is the old conical sugar mill. St. Croix is dotted with these haunting reminders of our island’s picturesque history.
A brief history of sugar
The process for creating sugar, by pressing the juice out of sugarcane and then boiling it down to a crystalline form, was developed in India about 500 BC. Some say this new taste was introduced in Europe in the middle ages when the Arabs brought it to Spain. Others say it arrived in Europe when the crusaders brought it back from the Middle East.
There is an old document in London which records sugar prices at “two shillings a pound” in 1319. Thus, the extravagant taste was reserved for royalty and the very rich. In the 15th century, the sugar which Europeans were enjoying was refined in Venice. This all changed when Columbus brought sugarcane with him to the West Indies. Later, the Portuguese brought it to Brazil. After 1625, the Dutch brought sugarcane from South America to the Caribbean. The greater availability of sugarcane meant lower prices and greater availability for the lower classes in Europe. Suddenly sugar was the most valued import in all of Europe.
By the early 1700s, a large industry was beginning to take shape in Britain. Ships leaving the UK would sail south and complete a circuitous route through the Atlantic which included stops in St. Croix to pick up the juice from the sugarcane, stops in the Colonies to pick up tobacco, then back to England and Scotland to sell the tobacco and refine the sugarcane juice into crystals.
In 1733, Danish Governor von Prock built his home on the estate that was to eventually become The Buccaneer. It was he who turned the French Greathouse into a sugar factory, erecting the sugar mill (now used to manufacture some of the sweetest weddings in the world).
Infused with history
The level of service which guests of The Buccaneer experience harkens back to a bygone era. Caribbean luxury is infused in the grounds and in the way every detail is managed by the caring staff. As you wander the 340 acres and take in the modern scenery, let your mind go back to 1745 when, at twilight, the hills glittered with small fires and torchlight. The rays of the setting sun over Christiansted were filtered through the smoke of the boiling houses where the sugarcane juice was being refined.
I highly doubt that the hard work on a Caribbean sugar plantation allowed anyone, even the owner, any sense of luxury
In the harbor, a stone’s throw from The Buccaneer, ships lay at anchor; their masts creaking gently in the breeze. The next morning they would be laden with barrels of rum and sugar juice bound for ports all over Europe.
No period of history is as romantic as we imagine it and certainly the early history of St. Croix was difficult, challenging and even cruel. So why do we feel romantic notions when walking the grounds of such places as old sugar plantations? What is it that we sense among these reminders of our shared past?
Perhaps we all yearn for a time when life was more simple and elegant than today. It is this elegance that infuses every aspect of a visit to The Buccaneer.