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Discover The Buccaneer, the beautiful beachfront resort in St. Croix, which is the island's longest running resort.

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The Buccaneer, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2007, dates back to 1653.


Hotels with a Past: The Buccaneer in St. Croix

Hotels With A Past presents The Buccaneer Hotel in St. Croix. Peter Greenberg explores a hotel with a past — The Buccaneer in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.


A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2007, The Buccaneer is the longest running resort complex in operation throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. Despite having originally opened in the mid-20th century, the facility itself possesses a history that harkens back much farther into time. In 1653, a member of the Knights of Malta named Charles Martel built a remote, isolated building upon the grounds of the resort. The edifice was meant to serve as a deterrent against marauding pirates, who had plagued the Lesser Antilles for the better part of two centuries. Martel’s quaint structure soon became known as the “French Greathouse” among the sailors who passed by St. Croix during their journeys. When the Danish West India Guinea Company formally started supervising the island at the start of the 1700s, St. Croix’s head colonial administrator, Christian Leberecht von Prøck, established a sugar mill around the French Guesthouse. The area remained under the nominal control of the Danish Governor-General until Michael Shoy acquired the entire estate. Shoy and the owners who followed him preserved many of the historical buildings located onsite, including the locally-renowned French Greathouse.

By the dawn of the 1900s, a business called the “Heyliger Company” had exclusively used the land to raise herds of cattle. But the Heyliger Company decided to sell its interests to Douglas Armstrong in 1922, who continued to rear livestock for the next couple of decades. But Armstrong had far greater plans for the area, desiring to construct a brilliant vacation getaway upon the land. Construction on the small hotel began during the middle of the 1940s, before finally concluding in 1947. When the building debuted as “The Buccaneer,” it only contained a meager 11 guestrooms. The first family-owned hotel in all the U.S. Virgin Islands, it quickly endeared itself among the first generation of tourists who made the trip to St. Croix from the mainland United States. Known as “Continentals,” the guests particularly fell in love with the hotel’s setting, nightly entertainment, and spectacular cocktail menu. Guests can still sample the repertoire of cocktails that were popular among the early guests, such as the “Cruzan Confusion,” the “Raising Cane,” the “Caribbean Sunset,” and the “Jump-Up-and-Kiss-Me.”

Over time, interest in The Buccaneer forced the Armstrong family to grow the hotel into an amazing resort through a series of meticulous renovations. The guestrooms in particular received a substantial amount of their attention, as they were continuously outfitted with some of the finest amenities of the age. The Armstrongs even renamed the spaces after the currency of the island’s “swashbuckling” era, including, the “Lucky Farthings,” the “Pretty Penny,” and the “Pieces of Eight and Doubloons.” Many celebrated luminaries from around the world soon traveled to the resort, too, including the likes of Johnny Carson, Kirk Douglas, Joan Bennett, and Lauren Bacall. Then, under the leadership of Robert Douglas Armstrong—the son of Douglas Armstrong—The Buccaneer emerged as one of the world’s leading holiday destinations. His tenure saw the resort receive a constant stream of awards and accolades for its unrivaled hospitality. Today, Robert’s children, Douglas and Elizabeth, continue to maintain The Buccaneer’s prestigious reputation. And although The Buccaneer is a great deal larger than when it first opened, it still retains the warm and intimate atmosphere of the original estate.

  • About the Location +

    Christopher Columbus first visited St Croix while on his second voyage to the “New World,” anchoring his fleet just off the shoreline on November 14th, 1493. Originally christening the island as “Santa Cruz” on behalf of the Spanish Crown, Columbus dispatched a party of some two-dozen soldiers from his flotilla to explore the landmass. Almost as soon as Columbus’ men made landfall near Salt River, the local Native Americans known as the “Caribs” assaulted the group with a hail of arrows. Disturbed, the Spanish briskly retreated from St. Croix back to the safety of their own naval vessels. Columbus subsequently abandoned the area, opting to investigate the much more prominent islands of Cuba and Jamaica further west. The Carib continued to live in relative peace until the Spanish returned and captured St. Croix in 1555. After vainly attempting to coordinate a regional uprising with the native Tainos of Puerto Rico, the Spanish subjugated the Caribs with the intent on turning them into slaves. Understanding that retribution was imminent, the Carib largely vacated the island for new homes scattered across the Caribbean. A few Spanish settlers then inhabited St. Croix for the next several decades, although the island itself remained largely uninhabited.

    Over time, though, English and Dutch colonists arrived on St. Croix, who slowly began to outnumber the transplanted Spanish residents. By 1625, both the English and Dutch had essentially seized the island for themselves. Great Britain and the Netherlands subsequently governed St. Croix together in what became a mutually beneficial economic relationship. Yet, the harmony between the two societies abruptly collapsed when the Dutch decided to attack the English. The English retaliated and drove their once erstwhile allies from St. Croix. Then from their holdings in Puerto Rico, the Spanish launched a separate assault to curtail England’s growing presence on the island. Driving the English off of St. Croix, the Spanish once again occupied the island. But as soon as the Spanish began to resettle, the French successfully invaded St. Croix in 1650. Philippe de Poincy—a member of the Knights of Malta—sent 160 of his best men to spearhead the assault. (Among the knights to land on St. Croix was Charles Martel, who would later build the remote citadel that currently resides on the grounds of The Buccaneer.) And after capturing St. Croix, Poincy quickly dispatched some 300 settlers from nearby St. Kitts to establish settlements all over the island.

    Despite Poincy’s best efforts, however, France’s hold on St. Croix remained tenuous. Seeking to reinforce French dominance, King Louis XIV created the French West India Company to directly supervise it administration. Unfortunately for the King, the company struggled to assert its authority and it dissolved in just seven years. The French had thus largely abandoned the island by the start of the 18th century. In 1733, France finally found a new overlord for the island—the Danes. Demark had long yearned to establish colonies in the Caribbean that could participate in its flourishing maritime trade. As such, the nation jumped at the opportunity to acquire St. Croix. Like the French before, the Danish West Indian Company immediately transported dozens of colonists across the Atlantic to resettle the island. Under the leadership of Frederick Moth, a new town called “Christiansted” debuted within the year. The remaining parcels of land throughout the island were subdivided among various farmers, who established a variety of largescale plantations of sustenance farms. But the planters soon dominated St. Croix’s politics, becoming incredibly wealthy by growing sugarcane. In fact, the wealthy planters on the island even managed successfully petition King Frederick V to formally dissolve the Danish West Indian Company in 1757.

    The cultivation of sugarcane made St. Croix one of the most affluent societies in all the Caribbean. Not only did the island export sugar, but it also distributed rum, molasses, and cotton, as well. Yet, the island’s entire economy revolved around slave labor for some time, with more than 26,500 living on St. Croix in 1803. In fact, the ratio of slaves to free people of European descent was nearly eight to one. Due to rising resistance on part of the enslaved population in the early 19th century, the Danish Royal Governor, Peter von Scholten, outlawed the institution in 1848. St. Croix—and the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands—subsequently remained under Danish control for the next several decades, until the United States formally purchased the territory in 1917. America subsequently used St. Croix and its other neighboring islands as a military base for the U.S. Navy. But St. Croix eventually developed a vibrant tourism industry shortly after World War II, making it one of the most visited vacation destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Today, thousands of people travel to St. Croix every year to enjoy its serene tropical atmosphere and fascinating local attractions. Its culture remains incredibly diverse, too, for its citizens retain many interesting customs from different African, European, and North American societies.

  • About the Architecture +

    The Buccaneer displays a brilliant, modern take on French Colonial design aesthetics. French Colonial architecture itself dates back to the 17th century immigrants who left France to found new communities across North America and the Caribbean. Yet, French Colonial style in the Americas varied somewhat, as different subsets of French society often created their own design aesthetics for their new, respective communities. For instance, Huguenots typically built stone structures, while Cajuns created rectangular, cottage-like edifices. Nevertheless, all French Colonial buildings were unified by a basic set of recognizable principles. Historically speaking, French Colonial buildings tended to consist of a wooden frame and either brick or “bousillage,” which was a compound made of mud, moss, and animal hair. Buildings were both symmetrical and rectangular in nature, and were often missing interior corridors. Interestingly, spaces on the inside were usually connected by exterior walkways that wrapped around the length of the building. Those walkways also doubled as grand porches that many French expats referred to as a “galerie.” The rooms themselves were incredibly spacious, with the most attention paid to the parlor. Nonetheless, all the spaces featured typical French doors, multipaned windows, and high ceilings that promoted proper ventilation. French Colonial architecture also featured a hipped roof with prominent overhanging eaves that often hug directly over the “galerie.” And in some cases, the buildings would even sit atop elevated foundations. This was particularly true for French structures constructed in tropical climates, as the heightened platforms prevented water from flooding the grounds. (Additional characteristics included a brick chimney, wrought iron balconies, and a smaller, second-story porch.)

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Allen Dulles, remembered to history as the “Father of the Modern CIA.”

    Arthur Ashe, professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles.

    Artis Gilmore, Hall of Fame basketball center, who is remembered to history as “The A-Train.”

    Ben Bradlee, journalist whose career involved covering the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal.

    Ben Gazzara, actor known for his roles in such films like Anatomy of a Murder, Husbands, and Road House.

    Charles Rangel, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York (1971 – 2017)

    Donald Dell, former tennis player and sports agent who founded the Association of Tennis Players (ATP).

    Faith Dane, political activist and actress who played the role of “Mazeppa” in the Broadway production Gypsy.

    Flyod Patterson, professional boxer who won two world heavyweight championships in 1956 and 1962.

    Fred Friendly, journalist wo served as the President of CBS News and co-created of See It Now.

    Fritz Reiner, conductor who worked for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s.

    Helen Hayes, actress remembered to history as the “First Lady of American Theatre.”

    James B. Conant, 23rd President of Harvard (1933 – 1953) and Chairman of The Manhattan Project.

    James Franciscus, actor best remembered for his roles in such television programs like Mr. Novak, The Naked City, and Longstreet.

    Jacob Javits, U.S. Senator from New York (1957 – 1981)

    Joan Bennett, actress known for her roles in such films like Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, and Man Hunt.

    Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the United States (2009 – 2017) and U.S. Senator from Delaware (1973 – 2009)

    Johnny Carson, comedian best remembered for hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

    Kathleen Turner, actress best remembered for her role in Romancing the Stone.

    Katherine Graham, publisher who operated The Washington Post during the Watergate Scandal.

    Ken Griffey Sr., Hall of Fame outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds who won two World Series titles with the team in 1973 and 1976.

    Kirk Douglas, actor known for his roles in such movies like Spartacus, Paths of Glory, and The Bad and the Beautiful.

    Lauren Bacall, actress known for her roles in such films like The Big Sleep, Key Largo, and To Have and Have Not.

    Leslie Uggams,

    Luis Tiant, famous baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.

    Max Steiner, composer who created over 300 scores for various movies, including Little Women, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind.

    McGeorge Bundy, 6th U.S. National Security Advisor (1961 – 1966)

    Michael Jackson, one of the most influential singers of the 20th century who is remembered today as the “King of Pop.”

    Omar Bradley, World War II hero and 1st Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1949 – 1953)

    R.L. Stein, author best remembered for writing the Goosebumps series of children’s horror novels.

    Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming who is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

    Sam Robards, actor best remembered for his role as “Henry Swinton” in the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

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