Patrina Pink, Gleaner Writer
FOR THE greater part of the mid-20th century, the Liguanea Club was the dominant organisation in the New Kingston area. The club owned more than 100 acres of land which stretched from Trafalgar Road to Dominica Drive. Much of the history of St Andrew is inextricably linked to that of the 100-year-old club.
"We were here back in the day when people used to say they were going to country when they visited New Kingston," Horace Abrahams, club vice-president, noted with pride. Established on November 22, 1910, on what used to be a local hotel, the club offered up premium sporting services, rooms and relaxation to members of Kingston's elite business and social scene. Currently, it boasts 38 guest rooms, eight tennis courts, meeting rooms, bars and other facilities. The club has also hosted most of the international squash tournaments that have been held on the island in recent years.
Its executive is quick to dismiss the view that their organisation, which is a private-members club, only caters to the elite.
"We have a tennis programme and kids come from all walks of life to play. It definitely isn't just for those from the upper echelons," said Abrahams.
The Liguanea Club hosted a brunch recently and received dozens of girls from the St Andrew Parish Church Girls' Home, after a special service at the church's Half-Way Tree building. The service marked its 100th anniversary and Club President Desmond Hayle, who is also an architect, pledged its support for the refurbishing of the girls' home.
Owning just a little over 16.5 acres of land, the club has come a long way since the days of virtually owning all of New Kingston. It has leased land to the state-owned Urban Development Company (UDC). Hayle says that the UDC in turn rents to businesses like the popular children's gaming centre, Putt and Play, and the LIME Golf Academy. This, Hayle said, has contributed to diversifying the New Kingston landscape, a challenge which proved particularly difficult during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"We gifted the land that is now the grounds of Emancipation Park to the Government for green space, not business enterprises," said Abrahams. The ground which hosts Emancipation Park was club property as late as 1970.
However, in later years, plans were afoot to use the land to build office buildings. These plans were later scrapped, but not before the club and other members of the society challenged the Government.
The Liguanea Club's executive is insistent that the organisation will continue to contribute to national development. With roughly 900 members, Hayle said the club places the development of sporting and relaxation in Jamaica very high on its agenda.