The crystal clear waters and the expansive greens of Paradise Island were not enough to pull in visitors. It was the vision of three gentlemen. Read the interesting story of the rise of this island, and the golden beacon it has become for investors
By: George Damianos, President, Damianos Sotheby's International Realty
Posted on: November 21, 2019
The year was 1962. With the introduction of commercial passenger jets into the skies in the previous decade, air travel was becoming an increasingly popular pastime among the international elite. From wealthy businessmen to celebrated stars, the world’s richest and most famous built a lifestyle around it, flying from one glamorous destination to the next. And Paradise Island in The Bahamas was high on that list of destinations, thanks, in part, to a financier, an appliance manufacturer and an international playboy.
The Fascinating Tale
The real story of Paradise Island (originally named Hog Island), began a quarter of a century earlier when Edmund Lynch, co-founder of the Merrill Lynch & Co brokerage firm, sold his Hog Island estate to Dr. Axel Wenner-Gren, owner of the Swedish manufacturing company Electrolux. Even though it was 1939 and the world was on the brink of war, Dr. Wenner-Gen set about building an extravagant tropical oasis which he dubbed “Shangri-La.” The lavish estate was so expansive that it included a 75-foot-wide terraced garden modelled after the gardens of Versailles Palace in France, overlooking the Nassau Harbour that stretched a quarter of a mile from the grounds of Shangri-La to the southern edge of Hog Island.
Just a few months before his death, Dr. Wenner-Gren sold the entire estate to his neighbour, Huntington Hartford II, grandson of the founder of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P). Known as a playboy and patron of the arts, Mr. Hartford was launching his career as a hotelier and had plans to convert Shangri-La into a luxury resort. Recognizing that Hog Island didn’t exactly conjure up the images of luxury and sophistication he hoped would attract the rich and famous, Mr. Hartford successfully petitioned the Bahamian government to change the name of Hog Island to Paradise Island. As for his resort, he named it The Ocean Club.
Mr. Hartford hired the Palm Beach architect John Volk and built The Ocean Club, Cafe Martinique, Hurricane Hole and the golf course, among other island landmarks. He also acquired and installed the Cloisters, a 14th-century French Augustinian monastery. The entire opening of Paradise Island was covered in Newsweek and Time magazines.
And, just as Mr. Hartford had envisioned, the celebrities weren’t far behind. World leaders like Jackie Onassis and Sir Winston Churchill, famed artist Salvador Dali, actors Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando and, yes, even The Beatles flew from every corner of the world to see for themselves what Mr. Hartford had created.
This was the true birth of Paradise Island and The Ocean Club as we know them today, and while much has changed since 1962, Paradise Island and The Ocean Club continue to be beacons that draw in the world’s most elite high-net-worth individuals.
Paradise Island Today
Paradise Island has a long history of enticing jetsetters and celebrities, and it’s because of the resort-style lifestyle that Mr. Hartford manifested nearly a century ago. A custom-designed golf course, private beaches, tennis clubs and marinas … all of this continues to be extremely attractive to the ultra-wealthy, not only when it comes to vacationing but also when purchasing homes.
To this day, Paradise Island is consistently voted as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean by distinguished travel publications like Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. And because it’s only a 40-minute flight from Miami, travel to the island is virtually hassle-free.
High net worth individuals are attracted to the fact that Paradise Island is easy to get to on a moment’s notice. When it comes to purchasing second and third homes, they want something that’s not going to be too burdensome to own; something that’s easy to take care of, easy to maintain and offers ease of access to their favourite pastimes such as golfing, diving and boating.
The island’s stunning waterfront properties set it apart from other luxury communities. Homes on the island range from elegant one-of-a-kind estates and gorgeous beachfront sanctuaries to exclusive high-rise condos and world-renowned hotel brands. Ocean Club Estates—one of the most exclusive oceanfront and golf-course communities in The Bahamas—is one of the more unique enclaves on the island due to its partnership with The Ocean Club Bahamas (now a Four Seasons Resort) which grants Ocean Club Estates homeowner full access to all of the resort’s five-star amenities.
This exclusive access adds incredible value when purchasing homes like Villa Tarka, referring to the one-of-a-kind 20,000-sq. ft. beachfront estate exclusively listed by Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty. There are very few homes currently on the market in The Bahamas that offer this combination of unparalleled elegance and wealth of amenities.
And then there’s the golf course. The Ocean Club golf course is an 18-hole, 72-par championship course that features breathtaking signature holes with seaside greens and tees stretching over 7,100 yards of beautiful coastline.
Not only are investors getting the ultimate turnkey experience when they purchase a home in communities like Ocean Club Estates, but they have access to the ultimate high-end lifestyle that defines Paradise Island. There aren’t many islands that offer this level of convenience and luxury.
George Damianos is President and Managing Broker of Damianos Sotheby's International Realty and Lyford Cay Sotheby's International Realty. With a career spanning more than four decades, George is one of the most trusted and longest-standing real estate agents in The Bahamas, and is credited with handling more high-profile sales than any other Realtor in the country. A graduate of The University of Miami School of Business Administration, George’s continuous success working with high-net-worth individuals has earned him passage into the “Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate Billionaire’s Club” which honors Realtors whose sales records total more than $1 billion over the course of their career. Whether it’s working with international celebrities, business moguls or professional athletes on the sale or purchase of private islands, luxury homes or resort properties, George relies on his detailed knowledge of government regulations and The Bahamas to provide smooth, discreet transactions for his clients. George spends his leisure time with his wife and friends on his Sportfish cruising the islands of The Bahamas or sailing around Old Fort Bay. In addition to being co-owner of Damianos Sotheby's International Realty and Lyford Cay Sotheby's International Realty, George is a Certified Residential Broker (CRB), a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) and a member of the America’s National Association of Realtors (NAR), The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) and The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce. George is also a licensed appraiser, a government-appointed assessor.