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West End

Historic Site or District
St. Mary Magdalene Church – Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

West End, the Capitol of Grand Bahama Island, is located approximately 25 miles west of Freeport on the westernmost tip of Grand Bahama Island. In 1513, Ponce de León commanded an expedition searching for the Fountain of Youth. His ship's log for the 18th of July noted that a small island near the 28th parallel was visited, which was probably Indian Cay off West End. A mere 55 miles from Florida and formerly called Settlement Point or West Point, the latter name appeared on James Wyld's map, published in 1841.

The sleepy streets of this coastal village hide a history of smugglers, rum runners, and wreckers. It was prominently featured in blockade running during the American Civil War, which broke out in 1861, and is probably best known for its history as a liquor-smuggling town during the Prohibition Era. Warehouses and bars would spring up almost overnight, and you can still see remnants of them along the waterfront road. West End was mainly a transfer base, a place where liquor from Canada, England, and Nassau was stored before being ferried over to the United States.

One of the town's first hotels called "The Star Hotel" was built in 1946 by West End resident, former Senator Austin H. Grant Sr., just before Freeport was born. The Star's light dimmed when the town fell on hard times after the closing of Jack Tar Village, but the property is still owned by the Grants today. In its early days, boaters from the U.S. mainland would make a point to stop over for a meal in the saloon or spend the night in its quaint surroundings. One such guest, the owners would proudly recall, was Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a frequent visitor to West End. Other visitors included retirees from the rum-running days, who would sit at the bar and regale patrons with their escapades. It predated one of the world's first all-inclusive resorts that was built nearby.

In 1949, English investor Sir William "Billy" Butlin purchased and established a vacation village here, modeled after his properties in England. It was reported in The Tribune of March 16, 1949, that this purchase consisted of 64 acres. The Butlin project, which would cost approximately $4 million and accommodate two thousand guests, eventually was re-branded as a Jack Tar Village Resort, when Dallas, Texas financier Charles A. Sammons purchased the property in 1959. That property has evolved into what is the Old Bahama Bay resort today.

Accessibility Notes

Persons with mobility impairments and those in wheelchairs should have no difficulty moving around.

Pet Friendly Notes

Leashed pets are permitted, but must be controlled.

Time Period Represented

Early 19th Century to mid 20th Century

Hours

Seasons Open

Year Round

Pricing

None if visiting on your own. Guided tours are available.