Five Fun Facts About Graycliff
With nearly 300 years’ worth of history, the beautiful Graycliff Hotel in downtown Nassau is steeped in glamour, romance, and thrilling tales. From its early days as a pirate hangout to its heyday as a sophisticated playground for the rich and famous, Graycliff is truly an “if those walls could talk” institution in The Bahamas. Today, the colonial mansion is a beloved attraction and home to a five-star restaurant, a chocolatier, a cigar company, and one of the world’s largest wine cellars, but did you know that Graycliff also has a remarkable past? Here are five facts you may not know about this Bahamian landmark.
Graycliff was built by a pirate.
In 1740, the mansion that’s known as Graycliff today was built by Captain John Howard Graysmith, a pirate who commanded the schooner Graywolf and became wealthy – and feared – due to his plundering exploits. During the Golden Age of Piracy, Nassau was a hotbed of pirate activity, and with its convenient location close to Nassau Harbour, there’s no doubt that Graycliff was at the center of the action. Today, visitors to Nassau Paradise Island can purchase premium John Howard Graysmith cigars from the Graycliff Cigar Company.
Graycliff also honors the man who helped end piracy.
In the late 1700s, Captain Woodes Rogers was appointed the first Royal Governor of The Bahamas. His job was bringing an end to piracy and restoring legal trade in the Caribbean. Acting as a privateer (essentially a legalized pirate), he succeeded in bringing order back to The Bahamas, convincing pirates to abandon their wild ways for more law-abiding pursuits. Today, there’s a guestroom at Graycliff named for Captain Rogers, as well as a street in Nassau. And, until The Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the national motto was “Piracy expelled, commerce restored”.
Graycliff played a role in the American Civil War.
In 1844, Graycliff became Nassau’s first inn, welcoming travelers with Caribbean hospitality and charm. During the years of the American Civil War, however, Graycliff was commandeered as an officer’s mess for the West Indian Regiment, and guests were replaced with soldiers within the mansion’s halls. Graycliff was closed to the public for decades during and following the war.
Graycliff was a popular Prohibition party spot.
In the 1920s, Prohibition was in full effect in the US, and while many wealthy club owners were successfully smuggling in alcohol from outside the country – including The Bahamas – some revellers were willing to travel internationally in search of a good time. With its close proximity to the southeastern United States, The Bahamas became a popular destination for the party crowd, and Graycliff once again opened its doors to the public as an inn. The hotel was known for being a glamorous spot to eat, drink, and be merry among the rich and famous. Not much has changed – with a five-star restaurant and one of the largest wine cellars in the world onsite, the Graycliff is still a wonderful place to wine and dine in The Bahamas.
Graycliff was home to royalty.
During the 1940s, a wealthy Canadian couple, the Waltons, lived at Graycliff during the winters. They renovated the mansion and constructed the intricately-tiled swimming pool, which is still intact today, surrounded by lush tropical gardens. In the 1960s, Lord and Lady Dudley, Third Earl of Staffordshire, purchased Graycliff. During their ownership, the mansion played host to royalty and famous figures, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII), Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Mountbatten, Sir Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis, and The Beatles. Lady Dudley added a very distinctive English style to the décor and furnishings at Graycliff, and many of her antiques are still used to decorate guestrooms and common areas today.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating history and modern amenities of Graycliff during your next vacation in The Bahamas. Browse special offers and packages at Graycliff, and get set to make history in Nassau Paradise Island!