They stand as sentries, of sorts; silent guardians of a dark past that also safeguard a bit of our unique island charm, our identity, for the future.
Centuries-old, weathered, and worn, you’ll find them all over previously top-producing sugar islands.
Sometimes they’re barely peeking out from behind lush rainforest, time’s tide steadily swallowing them up in a tangle of green. Other more fortunate sugar mills can be seen melded into modern home and hotel designs, or featured on display at historical attractions for all to explore.
Our old church in St. Croix, St. Ann’s, even had one. It sat right behind the chapel, seemingly serving little purpose beyond providing a play area for us kids after Bible study.
Now, as I find new sugar mills along my travels across the Caribbean, I’m always reminded of those childhood days back at St. Ann’s – the thick and often crumbling walls, the view of the sky through the open top, and sweet breeze through the slats at the side instantly inciting a six year-old grin on my face.
I’ve lived the experience many times in recent years – everywhere from Nevis and Antigua to Barbados and even Haiti. The sugar mill pictured above, though, continues to elude me.
It sits atop a ridge facing the sea on the East End of St. Croix, easily visible from the fantastic Solitude House villa. I must’ve snapped dozens of pictures of the mill over the two times I’ve been lucky enough to stay at Solitude House, though somehow never managed to trek up the hill to explore.
(MUCH more on Solitude House here.)
Just another reason to head back home (as if I needed one) and rekindle those childhood memories…