Better With Age
The Caribbean’s oldest-operating resort strikes a balance between modern amenities and a long history.
The Caribbean’s oldest continually operating resort, the Crane, has catered to visitors on its namesake beach, on the southeast coast of Barbados, since 1887 (it was built six years earlier as a dwelling). When it opened, the Crane was a stand-alone villa with 18 guest rooms. The resort has since grown into a complex of 10 buildings comprising more than 10 guest-room categories ranging from junior suite to three-bedroom penthouse with plunge pool and roof terrace. Paul Doyle, owner and managing director of Crane Resorts, shares what it’s like to maintain and expand a 130-year-old resort, and he gives tips for developers who manage historic properties.
“One of the greatest challenges of renovating a historic property is that infrastructure upgrades are always more difficult,” Doyle says. Improvements may involve compromising on finish, materials or fittings if the originals are no longer in production. If they are available, they may be expensive, which is another consideration when planning a renovation.
Though maintaining an older resort’s character can be costly, its history is part of its identity and appeal and can also inspire creative solutions when it comes to adding new elements. “A distinct positive is that working within a historical framework allows for a departure from the sameness that typifies many modern resorts and condo developments,” Doyle says. “We’ve found that historic buildings and structures can be restored and repurposed to provide a new revenue stream in the form of an amenity or service even while respecting the history of the property.” For example, the Crane’s former stables were converted to a poolside restaurant, now called the Carriage House.
For developers seeking to expand or upgrade a historic property, Doyle recommends looking beyond the bottom line and considering what makes the resort unique. The Crane continued some of the elements that typify the original building, such as coral-stone walls and traditional mahogany furnishings, in the newer buildings. “Even with the introduction of plunge pools, dining gazebos and private gardens, we haven’t allowed the original aesthetic to be compromised,” Doyle says. The key is to look for a way to balance the new with the old.
Image credit: Courtesy of The Crane