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Privately Owned Cay Close to Bimini
There is both a North Cat Cay, and a South Cat Cay. This page mostly concerns North Cat Cay. South Cat Cay is currently under development. Mostly, when someone mentions "Cat Cay", they are referring to North Cat Cay. Cat Cay, part of the Bimini chain, is frequently confused with Cat Island. Cat Cay is a small island, which is privately owned, and is the home of the Cat Cay Yacht Club. (the following is from www.catcayyachtclub.com). Cat Cay has a golf course, and tennis courts also. Cat Cay was once the stronghold of notorious pirates like Henry Morgan and Blackbeard.
The island, as well as many other Bahamian isles, played a significant role in the American War of Independence. It was a haven for loyalists embarking from the American colonies for lands under the British flag. Many came to the Bahamas and were granted lands by the English King, and their descendents are represented here in today?s population. During the Civil War Cat Cay was an important base for confederate blockade runners.
Later, Captain Haigh, of a distinguished English family, became the owner of Cat Cay. He lived in great style at the Haigh House. It was Captain Haigh who established the island custom of dressing formally for dinner, as was the British colonial tradition. His original home burned, but the cookhouse remained intact. Its huge oven fireplace is part of the rebuilt cottage named Haigh House in his honor.
Milo Strong and his wife bought the island in 1915. They built and lived in the Manor House, which still exists today. For the next 15 plus years they spent nine months out of the year on Cat Cay. The 1929 hurricane blew the roof off. Although this was repaired, when Milo died two years later and another storm seriously damaged the Manor House, Mrs. Strong decided to sell.
Friends of the Strongs, Louis & Rae Wasey purchased the island for about $400,000 in 1931. Wasey, an advertising tycoon, intended the island to be a winter home for himself and his wife and as a place to entertain clients and friends. He enlarged Manor House for his own home and built a number of English styled ?cottages? for his guests.
During the depression years, Wasey turned the island development over to Mike Smith, an architect friend. Smith loved the Bahamian and old English architecture and went to great lengths to use both in making the island buildings attractive. He employed Bahamians to help, sent a schooner to Cuba for soft handmade tiles dug up from deserted churches and had men search the Florida swamps for just the perfect angle-shaped pieces of wood needed for his Tudor-style buildings. All to assure his construction was authentic.
Our Kitten Key Club on the Southeast point of the island was a magnificent example of this attention to detail. The stately Sir Bede Clifford Hall, which Smith designed after a great English pub, was equally as elegant.
Cat Cay Club Created
In 1935 Wasey converted the island to a private club and sold lots to his friends so that they too could build their sumptuous vacation homes. Eventually he had about 200 members paying annual dues of $500.00. Mrs. Wasey, who loved antiques, built the Cat Cay English Shoppe, where the island boutique now stands.
There were many great fishing tournaments back then as the waters around Cat Cay were teaming with fish and the deep water fishing just a mile off shore. An interesting note is that the structure known as the tuna tower was invented on Cat Cay and first used by a skipper in the 1952 Cat Cay Tuna Tournament. While the first tower was rudimentary at best, its usefulness was quickly noted.
In World Was II, Cat Cay was a secret crash base for PT boats of the Allied Forces. General Hap Arnold, in charge of the Air Force, spent several months recuperating from a heart attack at Lou Wasey?s Cat Cay home. An Air Force officer stationed there, Monk Forster, fell in love with the island and returned after the war to manage the club. He bought High Tide, originally built by Wasey?s partner O.B. Winters. TRW owner Fred Crawford eventually purchased High Tide.
Lou Wasey had built a nine hole golf course that the Duke of Windsor, while Governor of the Bahamas, enjoyed playing. The course was named Windsor Downs in his honor. During one of his visits the Duke mentioned that it might be fun to have a little casino on the island for guests, Wasey readily agreed and the Duke issued a license in Lou Wasey?s name personally.
Upon Wasey?s death in 1963, the island's casino license expired. Wasey left the island to his daughter Jane, a New York sculptress, who returned for two years, but in 1965 Hurricane Betsy did enormous damage and the island was closed.
A few years later, Al Rockwell, the dynamic head of Rockwell International, put together a small group and bought the island. Eventually it became a private club owned by members . . . as it remains today.
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