Jan. 12, 2005 In addition to a plan to create V.I. National Park on St. John, the late Laurance S. Rockefeller was responsible for many other things on St. John, like bringing electricity via an undersea cable from St. Thomas.
"And he brought actual jobs here," St. John resident Chuck Pishko said Wednesday as he talked about Rockefeller and led a group of about 20 visitors and residents on a tour of Caneel Bay Resort's grounds.
The tour and talk were part of a series of seminars held by the Friends of the Park group.
Pishko said Rockefeller also made improvements to St. John's only health facility, then known as the Clinic.
Rockefeller bought up acreage across St. John to donate to the federal government for a national park. On the same day the park opened, Dec. 1, 1956, Rockefeller opened Caneel Bay Resort.
"He tried to make the park a major economic unit for St. John," Pishko said.
Pishko, who has done extensive research on the island's history, said that U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell and his son were uninvited guests at the opening ceremony.
"Powell jumped into the middle of the picture," Pishko said.
He also said that Powell and some other members of the U.S. Congress pushed to the head of the line at the community buffet in Cruz Bay held in conjunction with the opening ceremony.
Pishko also spoke about Rockefeller's accomplishment in getting Congress to create a national park.
"Getting an act through Congress is no easy thing," he said.
The resort is now managed by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, but Pishko said Rockefeller continued to visit as late as 2002. He stayed in Cottage Seven, which was built for him when he owned the resort, but paid the tab like all other guests.
As Pishko talked about Rockefeller's legacy, St. John Realtor Inga Hilverta said she was grateful everyday for what Rockefeller did to boost the island's economy.
Marvin Reed, a regular visitor from Princeton, N.J. for the past 40 years, said he met Rockefeller when he was a trustee at Princeton University.
"I saw him just before he died and told him one of the greatest things he ever did was to preserve the V.I. National Park," he said.
Rockefeller died July 11, 2004 at age 94.
Pishko said the Rockefeller family had a history of conservation efforts. Family members were also responsible for preserving Arcadia National Park in Maine and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Those conservation efforts were also coupled with opportunities to develop businesses. Pishko said the St. John connection began when Rockefeller's brother, Nelson, was named to the U.S. State Department's Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. This office carried out Franklin D. Roosevelt's good neighbor policy.
"They were interested in developing in the Caribbean," Pishko said.
Eastern Airlines, which was controlled by Rockefeller, took over South American and Caribbean air routes when Germany pulled out of South America before World War II. Great Britain also pulled out following the war because it had to rebuild at home. This left a void Eastern Airlines quickly filled.
Pishko said Rockefeller began thinking in the late 1940s about developing Caneel Bay Resort from a three-cottage complex operated as an adjunct to the Grand Hotel on St. Thomas to a resort.
"He took this on as his personal charge," he said.
Pishko said that Rockefeller had the foresight to keep the old stone ruins that date to the 1700s and add to the hotel's ambience.
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