Eleuthera contains a surprising number of ruins even in light of its long history. The sites span both the length of the island, and that of its history. The oldest site is perhaps the remains of the original colony near Preacher's Cave, although supposedly what little remains of this settlement has been buried by sand dunes. Larger, more modern ruins such as the Old Bannerman Town ghost town on the southern tip of the island and the abandoned US military base in Central Eleuthera offer the visitor a full day of exploration.
Bannerman Town was named after Sir Alexander Bannerman, a Scotsman who was governor of the Bahamas during the 1850's. (It's not clear whether the town, like many or even most settlements on Eleuthera, had an earlier name before the 1850's.) Located on a hilltop halfway between Lighthouse Beach and the site of modern Bannerman Town, the original Bannerman Town site once boasted homes, businesses, and cobbled streets. We are currently actively researching this site to identify and date the earliest buildings. More details along with a discussion of Bannerman Town's significance in Bahamian history coming soon!
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about Old Bannerman Town.
Download the Old Bannerman Town .kml file for use with Google Earth.
This former cotton plantation, known locally as "Big Ban" (ban being the word for a traditional stone stove; unfortunately, the original name of this plantation and its owner are presently not known), is located in Millars, just north of Bannerman Town near the southern tip of the island. Millars itself is actually a 1,000 acre parcel on the former plantation which was owned by a freed slave named Anne Millar. Anne willed the property to her descendants in perpetuity. Some of the plantation buildings were occupied by descendants of the former slaves until as recently as the 1960's.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about Old Bannerman Town.
Download the Ban Ban Plantation .kml file for use with Google Earth.
This ghost town was once a thriving settlement which provided shelter to those awaiting the arrival or departure of ships at nearby Deal's Point. Based on the size of the jail and a nearby house, the town was quite large in its prime, and reputedly was the largest settlement on this part of the island. Not much else is presently known about this settlement, when it was built, or when it was abandoned.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about Deal's Town.
Download the Deal's Town .kml file for use with Google Earth.
Also sometimes mistakenly known as Little Bay, this settlement could be quite old given the age of the nearby settlement of Current and its original plantations (of which Current Island was likely a part). Bar Bay was occupied until the 1960's, with population estimates ranging between 50 and 100 depending on the source (as compared with Current Island's total present-day population of 35). It is believed that the settlement was abandoned for a variety of reasons including its vulnerability to storms and its less-than-convenient location (exacerbated by a lack of road or ferry connections to Eleuthera).
Back when this town was occupied, it was called "Bar Bay" while the present-day settlement to the north was called "Little Bay" (the settlements being named after the bay nearest to each). Some time after Bar Bay was deserted, people began referring to Little Bay as the "Current Island settlement," or "Current Island" for short, perhaps as a simplification since it was now the only settlement on the island, or perhaps in recognition of the unification of the towns since many of the people from Bar Bay relocated to Little Bay. The name "Current Island" now appears on all signs and maps, and the settlement's original name is now mostly forgotten except by the most elderly residents in the area.
The most substantial structure remaining in this settlement is the remains of the old church. Large, hand-carved rectangular stones were used to build the church and its foundation. This accounts for how incredibly well preserved the church walls are, especially when compared to other church structures in Eleutheran settlements of the same age. A large, crumbling stone grave structure can be seen next to the church. This is likely the tomb of an individual who was considered integral to the church.
Note that while the settlement is only 4-5 miles from the end of the main road, it is not practical to get there on foot. No trails or old roads to the site exist, leaving the rocky coastline as the only means to walk there (this is slow going, making the round-trip journey a three day affair). For all intents and purposes, this site is reachable only by boat. Also be aware that the island is inhabited by wild boars which can be quite large and, at times, aggressive. Visitors hiking on the island should thus take suitable precautions and remain watchful for these animals.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about sites of interest on Current Island.
Download the Current Island .kml file for use with Google Earth.
See also this article from February 11, 1952 issue of LIFE magazine introducing the missile range operations and tracking program to some residents of the nearby Little Bay settlement.
Originally known as the "US Navy Experimental Facility, Eleuthera", the creation of the base dates back to November of 1950, when Western Electric was selected to build a demonstration SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) installation on the island as part of Project Hartwell to prove its worth in tracking Soviet submarines in the Atlantic. The first six-element hydrophone array was installed soon after. Initially, the base consisted of a wooden Generator Building, a wooden Western Electric Laboratory building, and a Communications Center which was little more than a tent. In December 1950, work was begun assembling five Quonset huts.
During this timeframe, the US Navy began effors to introduce the missile range operations and tracking program to some of the local residents. See this article from the February 11, 1952 issue of LIFE magazine describing the goodwill program.
In late 1952 or early 1953, a Seabee detachment arrived with five "green huts" which allowed for a Galley, a Mess Deck, and a new Administration Building. The communications equipment was also upgraded from the unreliable 40-watt receiver that was initially used to communicate with command in the US.
By September 1, 1957, a much larger base had been constructed, and was officially designated as a Naval Facility (NAVFAC). The new base had a complement of 150 officers and enlisted men.
Eleuthera Auxilliary Air Force Base (AAFB) began operations in September of 1957, and was the location of the United States Air Force Eastern Test Range (ETR), originally known as the Atlantic Missile Range. Eleuthera AAFB was Range Tracking Station #4 in this system. The Eleuthera AAFB was part of the Air Force Missile Test Center's Atlantic Missile Range, which was used for long-range monitoring of rocket and guided missile launches, controlled targets, drones, satellites, and lunar probes for the Air Force, Army, and Navy. The Atlantic Missile Range included a dozen bases around the Caribbean, and even further away.
What follows is a list of station numbers, locations, and distances (where "nm" signifies nautical miles from Cape Canaveral):
The base was supported by twenty contractor employees of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) (the primary contractor for operation and maintenance of the site's instrumentation including the MISTRAM system) and Pan American Airways (PAA) (the primary contractor for management, engineering, operations, and maintenance) during the 1960's and 1970's, and Western Electric in the 1950's. Pan Am employed the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, cooks, firemen, supply specialists, mechanics, diesel generator operators, and other tradesmen, while RCA employed the electronic technicians, engineers, and related equipment operators. At its peak, 45 Bahamian employees also worked at the base. The MISTRAM facility was part of Eleuthera AAFB. The Air Force Base Commander was evidently the only military officer assigned to the AAFB. The top PanAm employee had the title of Base Operations Manager, and the top RCA employee was the Instrumentation Manager.
See this blog entry for a fascinating story about espionage and an undercover agent searching for a spy on the AAFB.
By late 1970, the decision had been made to close the MISTRAM facility for reasons unknown but presumably related to a change in the Minuteman missile program. Much of AAFB site of the base was taken over by the Navy, although a small contingent of Pan Am and RCA employees stayed on to support Navy operations by providing communications services and facilities maintenance. The Chester Nimitz elementary school moved from its location in a beach house on Receivers Beach to the old MISTRAM facility building. The AAFB employee barracks were converted into quarters for the enlisted men, and the Pan Am mess hall was taken over by the Navy.
The base was officially decommissioned on March 31, 1980 after the United States government was unable to secure favorable lease renewal terms fro the Bahamian government for the land on which the base is located. The facilities and equipment left behind largely went to waste, rusting silently away as the years went by.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the individual buildings at this site, including then-and-now shots.
Download the base .kml file for use with Google Earth.
There are presently several albums of base photos:
This 2400-acre dairy and poultry farm (also known as the Hatchet Bay Estates, and later, the Hatchet Bay Poultry and Processing Plant) was started by Austin Levy in 1937. Levy, an American textile tycoon, paid wages above the Bahamian average, and Hatchet Bay quickly became a thriving community. During its heydey, the Hatchet Bay Farm supplied Nassau with much of its milk and eggs. This farm is also the location of the Hatchet Bay Cave.
The Cape Eleuthera Airport (airport codes: CEL, MYEC) served as the primary airport for visitors to the Cape Eleuthera Resort (see below). As late as 1982, the airport was still serviced by Shawnee Airlines which offered direct flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The airport presumably closed around 1983 when the resort shut down. After the airport was shut down, the runway was filled with berms made of dirt intended to keep the runway from being used as a nighttime landing spot by drug dealers. Large trees have now grown up through some of those berms. As drug smuggling became less prevalent in the Bahamas, some of the berms were later removed.
It is not presently known when this airport opened, exactly when it closed, or which other airlines it serviced.
The full name of this 5800-acre vacation destination was the Cape Eleuthera Resort and Yacht Club. Opened in 1972, the resort boasted 128 spacious villa bedrooms, six championship tennis courts, a private beach, a pool, a scuba shop, a full library of "stereo tapes" for entertainment, and an 18-hole golf course designed by Bruce Devlin and Bob von Hagge. The 4th hole of the course was rimmed by the sea, and was often compared to the fabled 18th hole at California's Pebble Beach.
The resort also had what was billed as the finest marina in the Bahamas. The marina itself featured dock-side immigration, laundromat, showers, and capable of accommodating vessels up to 200 feet in length. By 1983, one of the exclusive resort's final year of operation, a double room went for $182 in the on-season with two meals a day included in the price. By 1984, only the marina ("Cape Eleuthera Yacht Club") remained in operation. A travel guide published in 1988 mentions that, too, being closed.
Described as "a private world of beauty on the island of Eleuthera," the resort was regularly promoted in publications targeted toward urban executives. The advertisement on the right dates from 1973. According to one 1974 ad, tennis champion Billie Jean King had a residence at the Cape Eleuthera Resort.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the resort.
Download the Cape Eleuthera resort .kml file for use with Google Earth.
The architecture of the three-story central building was truly inspired. An impressively-large rooftop pool was flanked by large fireplaces for swimmers to stay warm on chilly winter nights, and spiral staircases descended through hexagonal openings into the lower floors of the building. An underwater window in the side of the pool opened into a bar, where patrons could watch swimmers in the deep pool.
This facility was to be only the first in a
proposed chain of such resorts. However, in 1971, the resort changed its name to Eleuthera Beach Inn, presumably the result of a change in ownership and disassociation with Arnold Palmer. (The advertisement to the right dates from 1972, during this period of ownership.)
In 1976 or 1977, the resort again changed hands and names, now being known as the Bahamas Islandia Resort. While there are a few ads for the resort dating from 1977, it does not seem to have been well-promoted, and ceased to operate soon after. It appears that during this time, the pool was repaired or refinished and the underwater window was covered over. Despite the resort's advance state of decay, the resort's unique former splendor is still quite evident from the roof patio.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the resort.Download the Islandia .kml file for use with Google Earth.
The Whale Point Club resort (also known as the "Whale Point Inn") was built by Sir Sydney Oakes in the mid-1960's. Oakes himself came from what some consider to be a family with a curse: many members of the Oakes family had a tendency to die in strange accidents or unusual circumstances. Sydney's father Sir Harry Oakes had been murdered in Nassau in 1943; interestingly, Sydney's wife was allegedly related to Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny, the accused murderer. Sydney's brother William Oakes died at the age of 27 of a sudden illness during a visit to New York City. Sydney himself would die in a mysterious single-car accident in Nassau in August 1966, only a few months after the resort opened. Whether it was due to constant equipment breakdowns (the resort depended on its generators and its water desalinator to operate) or legal complications resulting from its having changed hands so many times, there was a long succession of future owners, none of whom could manage to keep the resort open for more than a matter of months.
Murder on Whale Point
After killing the victim, the murderer grabbed some clothes and other possessions from the cottage to make the murder look like a robbery gone bad, and dumped them over the Glass Window bridge. He then fled to the Hatchet Bay Yacht Club and claimed his car had broken down in an attempt to establish an alibi for the evening. He was caught nonetheless.
In the early 1970's, a medical clinic was opened on Whale Point which, incredibly, promised a cure for cancer. The doctor in charge had originally practiced in the United States, but authorities began to take notice of his operation and investigate the questionable efficacy of his "cure". At this point, he fled to the Bahamas and opened a new clinic on Whale Point, the ruins of which can still be seen today. Ironically, one of the series of misguided investors who later purchased Whale Point Estates along with the clinic had been diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps the purchase was a business decision, or perhaps the glimmer of hope provided by the clinic made the deal seem irresistible. Unfortunately, the hope provided by the cancer clinic was a false one, and that investor later died of the disease.
The Whale Point Club buildings themselves have not fared well since the resort last changed hands. Built from prefabricated steel components shipped to Eleuthera from Kentucky and assembled on-site, the corrosive seaside environment has caused the structures to disintegrate with surprising speed. The second floor is now completely gone from the main building, as are most of the walls from the two hotel buildings. The surrounding subdivision has not fared much better. The heart of the subdivision dead, its beach and gardens overgrown, its pool full of dark, murky water, and its marina clogged with sand, more homes are now shuttered up or abandoned than occupied. The long road out to the subdivision assumes an eerie quiet during daylight hours, and can be a bit unsettling to drive at night. The only sound on this misfortune-ridden peninsula is the frantic whisper of the wind blowing through the casuarina trees which now grow up through the ruins.
Download the Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the Whale Point area.Whale Point .kml file for use with Google Earth.
Snake Hill is located along the Queen's Highway in James Cistern, just behind the Zion Baptist Church. This site was home to the original school and church for the settlement. These buildings were reportedly abandoned some time between the 1920's and 1940's due to the inconvenience of the location (the walk up and down the hill could be somewhat treacherous in the era before electric streetlights.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the Snake Hill area.
Download the Snake Hill .kml file for use with Google Earth.
The picture below appears to show a blue tarp next to the crashed plane. Presumably this tarp was covered with vegetation to keep the plane hidden from regular air traffic until the wreck could be removed.
GPS coordinates: 25°26'42.01"N, 76°37'25.13"W
The ruins of a paint testing tower lay on the edge of a small concrete harbor (known locally as "The Canal") just north of Current at Turbot Point. The tower is believed to date from the 1950's and was built by Sir Roland Symonette, first Premier of the Bahamas and a native of Current. Powered by a generator, a chain ran from the motor up to a wheel mounted just inside the long, narrow window. Paint samples located along the chain were thus variously exposed to the elements through the window. Not much remains of the original machinery, and the ladder to the upper level of the tower is no longer safe to ascend.
Prime Minister Lynden Pindling once called this farm "the greatest success story in the history of Bahamian agriculture." It is ironic that he effectively signed the death warrant for the farm (along with many of Eleuthera's major resorts) by eliminating foreign ownership of businesses in the Bahamas in the mid-1970's. The policy was later reversed, but the damage was already done: the farm failed as a government-owned venture, and closed for good in the early 1980's, another victim of the unintended consequences of protectionist economic policies.
The farm buildings were mostly torn down around 2005 when it became clear that illegal Haitian immigrants had taken up residence in them. Unfortunately, little remains now except for a great many concrete silos and building foundations, a few vehicles, and an extensive array of equipment which is rusting quietly away in the undergrowth.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about the Hatchet Bay Farm.
Download the Hatchet Bay Farm .kml file for use with Google Earth.
Royal Island is located off the northwest part of Eleuthera, and is five miles long with a natural harbor in the center. According to Moseley's 1926 book The Bahamas Handbook, Royal Island was originally called "Ryal Island", an Anglicized version of "Real" after the silver one real coin which circulated throughout the Spanish empire. At least one researcher (AB Molander) has suggested that Royal Island may be Guanahani, the island where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New-World.
In late April of 1696, the pirate Henry "Long Ben" Every (also sometimes known as John Avery) anchored here in the pirate ship Fancy after fleeing the Atlantic. Meanwhile, asmaller boat containing four men went on to visit Nicholas Trott, the corrupt governor of the Bahamas who resided on New Providence, as part of a plot to bribe him to ensure Every would not be apprehended by local authorities during the ensuing manhunt by the English government. Every's plan was successful, and he was one of the few pirates in history to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle.
According to the November 1874 edition of Harper's Monthly magazine (Volume 49, page 765-6), Royal Island's sheltered harbor was also a rendezvous where arms and stores were concealed, and where royalist privateers took refuge during the American Revolution. The magazine goes on to say that "an old stone house still remains there which has doubtless witnessed many wild, mysterious scenes in days gone by." Exploring the ruined estate on this island, one can certainly believe it!
The center of Royal Island is home to the ruins of an old mansion which once boasted numerous guesthouses, a bar, a large detached kitchen and bathroom, and several other outbuildings along with an impressive garden. Most of the references to habitation on this island have been found in nautical references which, as early 1887 (or possibly 1823 -- see below), refer to the house in reference to a nearby well full of good water. For example, the 1918 edition of the West Indies Pilot makes reference to "a large and conspicuous stone house" near the center of the island and 3/4 miles northeast of "two remarkable wooded paps or hummocks, about 75 feet high." Perhaps the same house is referred to in the 1887 and 1892 editions of that same reference, although they mention only a "house" without calling it "large" or "conspicuous" so perhaps these sources are referring to one of the earlier building. The first edition of the Colombian Navigator, published in 1823, refers to "a large house, with its garden, and some trees" on "Egg Isle", but since it does not provide any additional treatment of Egg Island or Royal Island, it seems possible that the "Egg Isle" was confused with Royal Island. Note that the guest houses scattered around the estate appear to be of much more recent construction than the main house and the older buildings on the east side of the estate. Further research is required to determine which building was indeed the first to be built.
Current references are consistent in claiming that the crumbling remains of the estate which can now be seen there was the center of a sheep farm on the island which was established by an estranged English dignitary. However, it is not clear how long ago the house was inhabited. The most recent individual to own the property was Mrs. Evelyn Guyton, although the house has been deserted for decades and was recently sold to a developer with plans to turn the island into a subdivision of luxury homes. Unfortunately, the current map of development plans on the Royal Island website seems to indicate that this historic estate is slated for demolition so that a pair of homes may be built on the underlying lot.
Click on the symbols on the satellite image below to see photographs and information about Royal Island.
Download the Royal Island .kml file for use with Google Earth.
According to an 1823 edition of the Colombian Navigator, Egg Island was once been home to a "a large house, with its garden, and some trees." However, this reference does not provide any additional detail regarding Egg Island or Royal Island, and the reference may have been referring to one of the now-ruined structures on nearby Royal Island. In any case, no foundations of that age have yet been located on Egg Island. The 1887 edition of the West Indies Pilot makes reference to a "conspicuous white house" at the center of the island, although this may be referring to the Egg Island light keeper's house which was supposedly located on one of the large hills near the northern end of the island.
According to sailing references spanning the years 1892 through 1918, Egg Island once had a white, 27-foot wooden lighthouse of low power meant to warn coasting vessels of the nearby reefs. The top of the lighthouse was 72 feet above sea level at high tide and could be seen 10 miles away. The lighthouse is gone now, and has been replaced by a steel trestle tower. It is not known if the foundation of this structure survives; no structures have been identified on the satellite imagery aside from a pair of modern houses on the northeast part of the island, and a series of temporary houses for beach parties just west of there. No trails to the existing lighthouse have been observed either, although a trip to the current beacon courtesy of a sharp machete may yield remnants of the original lighthouse.
The island's name supposedly comes from the island formerly being home to a population of wild chickens put there by sailors who wanted a source of fresh eggs while at sea. Now the island is home to a population of wild goats which are occasionally shot for food. The goats have evidently eaten all the eggs, though, because the chicken population is nowhere to be found now.
No historic ruins have yet been located on Egg Island, but this map should at least help to rule out several structures visible in satellite images. Click on the symbols to see photographs, or click on this link for an album of photos from Egg Island.
Download the Egg Island .kml file for use with Google Earth.