Billy Butlin’s West End Grand Plan
Butlin's Vacation Village venture began with an impressive investment of $5 million for construction of the resort. The cash came from Salisbury, England but the actual work on site was carried out by Reema Construction Company (Bahamas) Limited of Nassau N.P.
The subcontractor for plumbing mechanical and electrical installations was A. F. Snelling and Company of Hull, England. S.C. Alden was subcontractor for masonry and plastering work.”9
Plans called for occupying a site approximately a half-mile square to accommodate 2,000 guests, an international-class airport consisted of three runways and all subsidiary services such as water and electricity supply, sewerage disposal, etc. – plans that were never fulfilled.
The new resort brought about the installation of radio telegraph and telephone circuits between West End and Nassau, and West End and Miami. During 1949, the first runway of the airport was completed, a graded strip 5,000 feet long with a 200-foot overrun at each end. The labor force reached a peak strength of 165 Europeans and 1,050 Bahamians in October 1949. Apart from delays in getting started, which were due to factors outside the contractors’ control, progress was held up by the United Kingdom dock strike of June and July, the hurricane of August 26 and heavy weather in December 1949 that interrupted local shipping. Read more - Commissioner's Report 1949.
The residential accommodations were dormitories or chalets in two-story blocks. Although plans called for the use of the patented “Reema” method of construction of precast concrete units, only four units were built in that manner. The other five were built of standard concrete blocks cast on-site.
Nearly 8,000,000 board feet of lumber was supplied by the Abaco Lumber Company. Butlin’s (Bahamas) Limited also acquired the factory previously operated by Sea Foods Ltd. approximately 1.5 miles from the Vacation Village site, including a diesel-driven generating plant. The icemaking plant and cold storage rooms in the factory were overhauled for Vacation Village requirements. The camp opened, partially complete, in the winter of 1949. Some $2.25 million was still needed to complete the project, and as American tourists did not enjoy the holiday camp system then so popular in England, it failed to attract enough visitors to prosper.
Nervous investors withdrew their support and, after a single year of operation, the project collapsed in November 1950.
The resort was renovated and re-opened in 1955 as the Fishing Hole on a more modest basis for fishermen and was bought in 1959 by Jack Tar Hotel chain. The 500-room Grand Bahama Hotel and a new marina (1963) were built on the site, making it a completely self-contained resort, which closed in the 1990s.
Read more about Billy Butlin's West End grand plan.
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9 Commissioner Herman Pyfrom. Annual Report for the District of Grand Bahama for the Year 1949, p. 16.