St. John is one of the most photographed places in the world. It's no wonder Laurence Rockefeller became so intrigued by the island while sailing the Caribbean in 1952.
Shortly after his enchanting discovery, the gazillionaire purchased 5,000 acres there. As the grandson of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller — and having taken his father’s seat on the New York Stock Exchange — money was no object.
His vision was to create a resort that blended seamlessly with the island's natural beauty. Instead of a high rise you could see from a plane, there would be something that reflected the island’s wonder. He opened an environmentally-focused hotel at Caneel Bay as part of his estate.
Rockefeller's dream didn’t stop in St. John. He built similar hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the British Virgin Islands. His resorts became hot spots for celebrities and those who were well-off.
In 1955, he began developing an infrastructure to provide the Caneel Bay with power, fresh water and roads. At a time when the idea of global warming was not even a seed in anyone's mind, Rockefeller understood the importance of preserving our land. He oversaw every detail personally.
But the resort only took up 170 of the 5,000 acres. In 1956, he donated the rest of the land — including his own estate — to the National Park Service so that it would never be developed. National parks were one of Rockefeller's primary interests, and he fulfilled that passion to the fullest.
More land was eventually donated to Rockefellar’s cause in St. John, and today it is made up of 7,200 acres. Thanks to Rockefeller's pioneering ways, St. John’s beauty is preserved in time. Unlike many other places, the island is as beautiful as when Rockefellar first sailed by 60 years ago.