Great Whale Cay: An Island With Substantial Social History, For Sale For 120M
The thing is, there are a lot of islands for sale, worldwide. Some are in the Caribbean, some along the Pacific Rim, some others in the Mediterranean. There are often restrictions and limitations on the purchase, and much of the time, there is no social history at all. But Great Whale Cay breaks this stereotype, as it is an island in the Caribbean with an exceptional social history, centered around one eccentric, memorable person. According to Kate Summerscale, the author who wrote and published her biography, called The Queen Of Whale Cay, Marion "Joe" Carstairs was born in London in 1900, and was a cigar-smoking, cross-dressing, motorboat-racing woman, who had tumultuous affairs with leading actresses, including Tallulah Bankhead, Mabel Mercer and Marlene Dietrich. With her close-cropped hair and tailored Savile Row suits, Carstairs was delighted when anyone actually mistook her for a man. An heir to the Standard Oil fortune, she abandoned civilization at the age of 34 to become the self-appointed ruler of Great Whale Cay, a 5 1/2 mile long island in the Bahamas. There she lived for more than 40 years, attended by a kaleidoscopic parade of beautiful women, avid sports and fishing enthusiasts, royalty, hearty partygoers -- and a small leather doll named Lord Tod Wadley, whom she treated as her best friend and lifelong companion.
Gallery: Great Whale Cay
The image above shows Joe to the left of the Duchess Of Windsor. The Duke and Duchess were frequent visitors.
Her life led her from boarding school to World War II action as an ambulance driver . Later she pursued her infatuation with speed by becoming a motorboat-racing driver, a yachts person, ultimately being recognized as the "fastest woman on water." She was a big game hunter, and gun collector also. No one really knows, nor did she ever completely explain her decision to leave the upper crust English social world of the 1930s, but it was obvious did not fit in any average social milieu of the time, so she went somewhere where she build a milieu around her, and fit in there. She bought Great Whale Cay, part of the Berry Island chain, in 1934, and with a team of 273 Bahamians, she developed the island, quite a feat in the mid-1930's. She died in 1993, at the age of 93.
One of the island's owners, David Casoria, wrote me recently about the spirit of Joe Carstairs on the island:
"Yes, I truly did feel a positive presence of the active, independent spirit of Joe. Everywhere you go from one end of the island to the other, are remnants of what Carstairs created over 70 years ago -- the coral cottages along the roads and in the thick vegetation in the heart of the island. There are patches of paved roads everywhere, as she had built 26 miles of roads. Water cisterns and fresh water wells still function throughout the island. Of course the Church, Trophy House, Lighthouse, Doll House, Sea Plane Hanger, Commissary Store, Hospital, and many other buildings. still stand. Coral walls lining the roads and trails everywhere. Having had over 500 employees living on the island at one time she needed to keep them busy and I think she must have loved having them build coral walls.
"I lived in the in the Great House for a year and a half -- and often, just thought of all the people that visited over the years, actresses Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead, actor Rock Hudson, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, English playwright Sir Noel Coward -- the list goes on and on. It's fun to watch interested people today as they walk through the Great House. They are really fascinated with it.
"I believe Joe Carstairs would be appreciate the way we have maintained the island. To date any conceptual development plans for the island have all included preserving the historical buildings and coral walls throughout the island. There are plans to turn the Trophy House into a Museum housing hundreds of photos we have collected. We also have Lord Tod Wadley's wardrobe (tailored suits, bath robe, scarves, shoes, hats) and other Carstairs items we have obtained over the years. We even have old film clips of her racing her boats in the 1920 are which we would run a loop on a flat screen TV."
But while the memory of Joe exists here, there is also an awareness of the potent future development possibilities for the island also. She was a forward thinker, and surely would have enjoyed the elements that still exist, plus those in renewal through renovation. As an example, her Great House lives on, built originally in 1934. It is a two story residence, about 5,500 square feet, complete with a tennis facility, swimming pool and museum. It is undergoing renovation with approximate 1500 square foot extension. This extension comprises 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a living room with working fireplace, dining room, kitchen with a pantry and refrigerator room, and laundry. Floors are Mexican tile on the ground floor and hardwood on the second floor. The second floor is accessed by a tile spiral staircase with wrought iron railings. Ventilation is either by central or ductless wall unit air conditioning. There are covered balconies off the three bedrooms on the second floor which are all covered and enclosed with wrought iron railings.
The island itself is spans 850 acres with elevations reaching up to 60' with 12 miles of waterfront property. The island is surrounded by shallow flats, coral reefs and deep water, with two deep water access docks. Located at the tongue of the Caribbean, the island boasts some of the best fishing and diving in the area. Great Whale Cay sits 32 miles from Nassau and 150 miles from South Florida. This translates into an approximate 1 hour boat ride from Nassau and 5-6 hour ride from South Florida. Direct charter and private flights are also available – the 4,000 foot airstrip at Whale Cay is capable of handling small jets, most single and twin engine piston and turbo prop aircraft. Flight time from Nassau to Whale Cay is approximately 10 minutes. Flight time from Fort Lauderdale is approximately 45 minutes. Flights from Fort Lauderdale and other locations outside the Bahamas currently stop at an adjacent island to clear immigration and customs.
And now, the opportunity is available to own and/or develop Great Whale Cay through direct land ownership of over 95% of the entire 850 acre island and 100% developmental control. This would include all tracts and parcels as well as over 60 waterfront lots and 40 interior lots. It is owned by David and Peter Casoria, a father and son, and is being sold under the aegis of Jim Marmorstone at Tenstar in Orlando, Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com, 407-361-0505
Whale Cay island is, at present, managed by The Whale Cay Group, Limited (WCG) is a corporation formed under the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, which owns the majority of the Island known as Great Whale Cay (GWC). Over a seven (7) year period, WCG has consolidated ownership of the island to make it available for development or sale. The repurchase of most of the land, island improvements, and changes to the CC&R's were designed to improve the ease with which the island could be sold or developed by future development partners. This has provided WCG with over 95% of the island by direct land ownership and 100% control to enforce reasonable restrictions on current and future development of the island. Deed restrictions on the other lots and remaining homes allow for a Master Development or design criteria to be stipulated by WCG for the entire island. This uniformity of architectural controls represents tremendous additional value, allowing the developer and/or the new owner to control design criteria and land planning issues comprehensively. This also mitigates product risk in terms of product level and exclusivity. Existing approvals have been granted by the Bahamian Government to include commercial operations, airstrip, marina, hotel and communal parks, resort homes and related facilities like tennis courts, restaurant, a swimming pool and 155 platted and approved, ready to build, individual ±1 acre home sites.
Given the exclusive enclave history of the island, it is understandable how the original vision of Joe Carstars translates itself into the 21st century: still private and exclusive, the developers vision carries her vision forward: to create a world away, for a lucky few, of peace, privacy, social acceptance and fun. Joe would have loved this.