Photo Essay: La Belle Creole – Post-colonial Ruin on St. Martin
Note: This is a guest post from our St. Martin friend Mark Yokoyama: co-founder of the world’s first Extreme Shallow Snorkeling Team, an avid photographer, passionate naturalist, and author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin. This is Mark’s first guest post for Uncommon Caribbean, so please make him feel welcome…
On the island of Saint Martin, as on most Caribbean islands, there are a variety of ruins. The most celebrated are the old forts, like Fort Louis overlooking Marigot. Numerous sugar mills and plantations, some now hidden in the forests, are architectural reminders of the island’s colonial past. There are other ruins, though, that take us to the not-so-distant past, specifically the 1995 hurricane season that brought Hurricane Luis.
Remnants from that summer of destruction can be found throughout the island, from Mullet Bay to Le Galion. Most are simply eyesores and reminders of the power of mother nature. There is, however, one that transcends the mundane.
La Belle Creole was a luxury resort located at the southeast tip of Marigot Bay near Pointe du Bluff. The 25-acre complex, with dozens of buildings, has been left to the elements for almost two decades. With a tall, pink tower, it can easily be seen from Marigot or the sea. Centuries ago, the prime location housed a battery of cannons to defend the island against intruders. Legend has it that the site is even home to an ancient Indian burial ground.
Today it is overgrown and crumbling, like an abandoned town in the jungle. The cavernous, multi-story reception hall is empty, the hot tub is full of tadpoles and trees have covered whole buildings with vines. Looking from trashed rooms through broken windows, the effect is part ghost town and part Angkor Wat.
Visiting La Belle Creole is not for the faint of heart. For a start, presumably it’s trespassing. There are also hundreds of old water bottles and other trash in the rooms, that indicate a history of squatters in the complex. I’ve also been attacked by the most vicious swarms of mosquitoes I’ve ever encountered. If one were foolhardy enough, they could even climb the tower to admire the view while hoping it doesn’t collapse.
Of course, rumors that the site will be rebuilt have been circulating ever since it was abandoned. The latest news, from 2010, indicated a real estate group was in the process of obtaining permission to rebuild on the site, although today it remains more or less untouched. Only time will tell if it is destined to become a historical ruin or a new luxury complex.