Virgin Islands National Park

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1956

In the 1940s, Laurance Rockefeller, grandson of the famous scion, began exploring the Caribbean islands with his wife, Mary, in their boat Dauntless. St. John was one of three islands the United States had purchased from Denmark during World War I to preclude a German submarine base there. The Rockefellers found it lovely and undeveloped. Laurance began buying acreage with two goals in mind: to establish a resort hotel in Caneel Bay as a business proposition, and to purchase land he could eventually donate for a national park. He acquired most of the island, about 5,000 acres, using the same nonprofit entity his father employed to buy private land for transfer to the Grand Teton park (see 1949 entry), and eventually donated this territory to the nation. In 1956, on the very same day they opened for business their Caneel Bay resort, designed to blend into the landscape on the western edge of the island, Laurance and Mary attended the dedication of Virgin Islands National Park, covering most of the rest of St. John.

  • Tom Butler, Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition (Earth Aware, 2008)