One of the old grande dames of downtown Christiansted came back to life Thursday night.
In a soft opening at 2 Company St., Caravelle Hotel and Casino Group majority owners Gary and Donna Brewer and Lance Griffith cut the ribbon at Company House Hotel as dignitaries and townsfolk applauded.
Known by names such as The Charthouse and the Danish Manor in days past, Company House has had 28 owners of diversified ethnic and racial backgrounds since 1760.
The once-stately building, freshly renovated and thoughtfully appointed, has regained her high-style stature of yesteryear.
“Our idea is to tip our hat to the history of the building while providing updated amenities for our hotel and bar guests,” said Andrew Dubuque, a member of the Caravelle Hotel and Casino Group, which owns the King Christian Hotel as well as the Caravelle.
The investment group purchased Company House on Nov. 30, 2017, and began refurbishing the property last February.
“We did not mess around with the old architecture; we’ve just updated the rooms,” said Dubuque. They left the historic Danish brick steps, as well.
Working with the St. Croix Historic Preservation Committee, Dubuque and Lance Griffith managed the design improvements at Company House.
“We hired people with ‘pitch-in’ and ‘can-do’ attitudes,” Dubuque said. They also engaged such talents as glass artist Jan Mitchell and lighting designer Bill Mahan, who had worked with the National Gallery of Art in the District of Columbia.
Crews refurbished the lobby, courtyard, conference room, and all 33 guest rooms, furnishing them in a West Indies colonial style. Improvements include new tiles throughout the property, new doors, a mahogany reception desk, updated lighting, security cameras, and a pool redo featuring two fountains and Jan Mitchell’s glass mural featuring Buck Island, Christiansted, and our Caribbean sea life.
“I had three weeks to complete the mural, and my kiln only fits eight ornaments at a time,” said Mitchell. “But I got it all done, all 96 pieces!”
Each ornament involves three layers of glass and an intricate production process.
With her studio just across the street, Mitchell dashed back and forth to watch as the hotel work crew attached her mural to the wall above the pool.
In the lobby, Duke’s Bar boasts lots of mahogany, a brass bar rail, a digital baby grand piano, and a state-of-the-art sound system. Dubuque sees the bar as a watering hole for locals who enjoy music and atmosphere as well as a lounge for his hotel guests.
Todd Manley and Brant Pell of Toast, 40 Strand Eatery, The Mill, RAW Bar, and Mutiny Vodka will run Duke’s.
“We want to bring in the business travelers and the inter-island travelers who are looking for a nice getaway,” Dubuque said.
He would like to lend an old-time feeling to modern clientele.
Once, on a visit to Cartagena, Columbia, Dubuque was overcome by the sight of colorful bougainvillea cascading down a wall. He envisions this for his old world courtyard, along with the tall palms that already grace the setting.
“I want bougainvillea dropping down,” he said.
The penthouse suite will call to bridal parties and to families and friends traveling together. With four rooms, a common area, and a kitchen, it offers views of the Roseway, Protestant Cay, the reef, Fort Christiansvaern, the Steeple Building and Gallows Bay from its balcony.
Back at the Nov. 28 ribbon-cutting, Sen. Samuel Sanes recalled the fine old hotel he knew growing up.
“So the fact of the matter is, this is a beautiful building … Unfortunately, it went downhill over the years, but look at it now!”
Sen. Novelle Francis thanked the Caravelle Hotel and Casino Group for jumpstarting a Christiansted transformation; he encouraged the group to consider Frederiksted next.
Taking the mike, historian George Tyson enlightened the chic crowd as to the building’s background. He dates it back to 1760.
“We can see it in old paintings. It stood above all the other buildings,” he said.
According to Tyson, the first proprietors were plantation owners from the countryside who used it as a townhouse. Then Creole families owned the building, and later, during the latter half of the 19th century, it was used in multiple capacities such as for dentistry, photography, and lectures, he said.
From 1916 to 1931, the St. Croix Labor Union owned the building, and David Hamilton Jackson, who created, edited, and published The Herald, ran his operation from within its walls.
“That’s a really important part of the history of this place,” Tyson said. “It has always been a standout property that everybody knew.”
Company House Hotel opens officially Jan. 1.
“This has been a cosmopolitan building since the 1800s, and it is encouraging that we are giving it back to the world,” said Lance Griffith.
Next, the Caravelle Hotel and Casino Group will turn its attention to the renovation of King Christian Hotel along with the race track and casino on St. Croix and on St. Thomas.