On a first visit to Turks and Caicos Islands to view the impressive luxury resorts and exclusive private villas, it’s hard to imagine that Turks and Caicos real estate had such humble beginnings. Yet, spending a few hours at the museum on Grand Turk or visiting sites such as Cheshire Hall and Wade Green Plantation will introduce an entirely different world and an interesting history of the Turks and Caicos.
The islands were first inhabited by the Arawak Indians around approximately 700 AD. They lived in circular buildings that were supported by poles and which were covered with woven straw and palm leaves. The Arawaks practised polygamy and each family hut would accommodate up to 100 people. The caciques, or tribal leaders, built rectangular homes that also sported a porch.
Regardless of status, everyone slept on hammocks or else mats made of banana leaves.
The Turks and Caicos real estate “market” continued to feature this style of architecture until the 1500’s. By that time, there were no Arawaks left on the islands and very limited development occurred for the next 200 years. However, in the 1700’s, new settlers began to arrive from Bermuda to establish the salt mining industry and with them came a new approach to designing and constructing personal residences.
These settlers designed basic homes that had hipped and gabled roof lines without overhangs, and cedar roof shingles. This design reflected the scarcity of building materials available, and gave consideration to mitigating hurricane damage.
Houses featured a living room and bedrooms. Stone kitchens were located in separate buildings away from the primary residence, to reduce the risk of fire hazards to the residents. Homes were surrounded by stone walls to keep the livestock out. The walls were made from local stone and mortar that was produced using crushed conch shells.
Some of these historic homes can still be viewed on Grand Turk and Salt Cay, whereas Providenciales has few historic buildings to share the island’s history. Despite this absence of historic landmarks, Providenciales can lay claim to the best collection of resorts in the country, a sector that certainly leads the Turks and Caicos real estate market today.
It was not until the 20th century that hotels were open on Providenciales. The first hotel on the island was the Third Turtle Inn, in Turtle Cove (closed in 1989). It was followed by the first hotel to be constructed on Grace Bay Beach – Le Deck, which is now called Sibonne. The first resort, which put Providenciales “on the map” was Club Med. The resort opened in the late 1980’s and is still in operation.
Another pioneer in the resort development market is Stan Hartling, the CEO of the Hartling Group. He was one of the first condotel developers on Grace Bay with his resort, The Sands, and one of the first luxury resort developers on Grace Bay with his hotel, The Palms.
Stan Hartling is now once again proving to be a Turks and Caicos real estate pioneer with his project The Shore Club, the first commercial development on 2.5 mile Long Bay beach on Providenciales. The $100 million project is scheduled to open in 2016. It features 38 condos in two low rise beachfront buildings, and six, 6-bedroom, luxury beachfront villas.
For more information on The Shore Club, visit www.theshoreclubtc.com.