ISLAND ARCH NOTES | The Buena Vista
Welcome back to ‘Island Arch Notes’, a series delving into the unique geography and history of this island nation which has shaped our distinctive architectural style. From Eleuthera to Crooked Island, our buildings are as colorful as they are rich in history.
Making for a strong start, there is no better island abode to begin with than ‘The Buena Vista’— Nassau’s optimal outpost. With varying influences playing a role, The Buena Vista hosts some iconically Bahamian architectural aesthetics well worth a ponder. This island contour first appears in the Colony’s records in 1788 and has since then, fallen through the hands of many and I’m certain would be good for a story or two. Housing an array of characters over the years, The Buena Vista welcomed with open arms, all that the trade winds swept in. From 18th century glamour to the blazing days of blockade running, this hilltop relic has been modernized but remains distinctively Bahamian. And folks, the glory days are far from over - The Buena Vista is one of the best preserved artifacts that our archipelago has to offer.
A sketch from then and now…
Way Back When
The original house, which has since seen many enlargements and alterations, was built during the turn of the 18th century when the well-to-do families lived lives of leisure spiced only with the finest glamour. A haven for blockade runners bound for the US in schooners laden with luxuries in the 1860’s or the choice charmed abode for high officials including the Colonial Secretary and his family in the early 1920’s - The Buena Vista has led a vibrant life. In this particular episode, we want to hone in on The Toothes (Edward and Patricia) of Madison, New Jersey who left their mark, ever so tastefully. The Toothes’ flew the coop in 1933 and made-way for our shimmering skerry only to take up residence at The Buena Vista Estate. At that time, the expansive home was complete with a team of groundsmen including: cooks, gardeners, maids and butlers all of whom were fed and watered each day. After the death of Edward, Patricia converted the luxurious home into a hotel and restaurant with the help of her faithful staff and the surrounding community. The Buena Vista was the first major operation in The Bahamas to be completely staffed by Bahamians. From the early 1860s until the turn of the century the Buena Vista matured into a graceful, polished home influenced by the many lifestyles of its array of occupants. The home’s stately appearance, warn nooks and dated look gave the Buena Vista its enchantment. There are not many of these homes left in the islands and having such rich, recorded history alone seemed to attract the interest of many including: Eddie Murphy, Crocodile Dundee, Jimmy Dean and Regis Philbin to name a few.
Shortly after reaching stardom alongside Daniel Craig in ‘Casino Royale’, the Buena Vista was sold to the National Insurance Board in 2006. Five years later, John Watling’s Distillery purchased the property and transformed the island heirloom into a lively micro-distillery, bar and visitor attraction. Namesake, ‘John Watling’ was a famed buccaneer who spent his years salty in our waters hopping from one island to the next. Today, this hilltop antique, offers complimentary tours of the estate and modern distillery where visitors can experience the “Spirit of The Bahamas” while sipping on handcrafted libations using traditional English distilling methods. Watling’s, quickly caught on to the Rum-distilling sport and found themselves the watering hole for locals and visitors alike who gathered around the tiki-lit gardens patrolled by proud, territorial fowl or perched within closer proximity to the full-bodied bar.
If old buildings have the power to make us feel inspired, peaceful and connected we must understand what features are enabling this, harness them and continue the process. The Buena Vista, now John Watling’s Distillery, is still revered as one of Nassau’s most striking monuments. The Buena Vista has been a home, a hotel, a restaurant and now a micro-brewery and bar. What’s so significant is the intention of the space and how this has been converted a few times but what always remains present is the strong sense of connectivity to the fine art of entertaining.
For us at Cacique, we believe in pushing boundaries - be it food, art, music or alternate spaces. That is why we are always on the look-out for new, breathtaking venues to make experiences come alive. For enquiries about John Watling’s or a particular property or venue or about an experience or event with Cacique International, please feel free to contact us.