Evolving Definitons of Luxury: The Tryall Club, Jamaica
Because of the ongoing severity of the economy, the definitions and presentations of luxury appear to be evolving. What is emerging, due to the shock and awe of this recession-roller-coaster ride, is the shift in luxury awareness from mirror to window, or, from narcissism of self, involving conspicuous consumption, to window: looking from conspicuous to conscious consumption, infused with a strong measure of social awareness. Looking out the window garners new vistas, and as it does, garners divergent root systems in the meaning and awareness of the luxury experience.
A new example of this evolving definition are the new ideas put into place at the Tryall Club – a bastion of family tradition and colorful history near Montego Bay, Jamaica.
It is, and has been for the past ½ century an enclave of understated elegance, with an exceptional social history and multilayered cultural tradition. Originally a 2300 acre sugar plantation, it was transformed in the 1950s into an elite club of private oceanfront, ocean view and golf course villas. Bing Crosby ( who bought four plots of land in one morning), and friends visited there, Noel Coward, Princess Margaret, Winston Churchill all were there. It defined and still does, some of the best that money buys in terms of time, space, location and design aesthetic.
At present, The Tryall Club offers 84 private villas, many for rental – moving from $3000 to $25,000 a week, and a few which start for sale between $750,000 and reach $4,770,000 . Utilizing a Caribbean Colonial architectural style, each one- and two-story residence is noted for size (up to 20,000 square feet), views (of Montego Bay, the golf course and the northern coastline), and, perhaps most, its household staff. Every villa has a minimum of one private butler, cook, housekeeper, gardener and laundress. Each villa rents for between $3,000 and $40,000 a week, and was also designed to house their private home staff: chefs, housekeepers and assistants, landscapers, gardeners, laundresses, drivers. The Tryall Golf Course is built in and around the exceptional centuries old ruins of the sugar plantation and the still-functioning aqueduct and water wheel.
Many Villa owners were introduced to the Tryall Club by their parents and grandparents, each carrying their legacy to their own children, grandchildren and in some cases, great-grandchildren. In this regard, the Tryall Club feels like a living legacy.
But, legacy or not, the story may well have ended there, with guests and owners coming and going, everything perfect, clean, bright, colorful, ironed, and static. But the trajectory of life does not go that way, as what's static usually entropizes -- and the Villa owners' way of seeing and doing are certainly not that. Those that I met are profoundly aware of the cultural and social complexities away from the enclave. It is to their great credit they do more than talk about these issues.
Alice Needle, owner of a Villa named Haystack, is representative of the philanthropic mindset of the many Villa owners I met. She owns a 12 bedroom, 12 1/2 bath Villa on three acres, and four of those bedrooms and baths are for her staff. The staff residences have ocean views, and spacious living areas. She is also the person who helped begin the Sandy Bay Basic School, located in Sandy Bay the neighboring town to the Tryall Club. It is a school for the children of all the Tryall Club staff. The day before I met her, she was down at the school, painting the interiors.
George Hodges, Villa owner and incoming President of The Tryall Club, has donated many computers to the Sandy Bay Basic School as well as to the High School in Montego Bay. More are to come. Recently, as of February 13, the Villa members held the Sugar Cane Ball, that included a silent auction. The money raised there was for Hanover Charities, that supports health and education initiatives in Hanover Parish, the area surrounding the Tryall Club.
In addition, the Tryall Fund, a substantial amount of money garnered by other silent auctions and events, supports the Lucea Infirmary, a nearby orphanage, and the evening health clinics in Sandy Bay. The Fund also supports educational scholarships for children of the employees of the Tryall Club, Also, one of the Villa owners funded a medical clinic close to the property in Hopewell, about 5 minutes away from the club. So, should any of the owners or staff on the property become ill, medical help is close by, and yes, the doctor makes house calls.
"Perhaps it is the beauty and the peace here that allows for such giving spirits," suggests Ms. Needle. " We live a beautiful life here – look around! There is ocean view, flowers in bloom, fruit on the trees, all you would ever want or need. And our Jamaican friends make us feel at home. They are wonderful, caring, hopeful people, and I want to do all I can to make them happy, just as their caring for the club and my villa, make me happy."
" Yes," adds Mr. Hodges. " A rich life used to mean just having a lot of money. Now, I like to think that having a social conscience redefines the meaning of rich. A rich life, to us, means doing good as well as doing well. Once you have a social conscience no matter where you are, it never leaves you."