- June 30th, 2010
- in Yachting
I love historic houses. It might be genetic. Both my mom and younger sister work for non-profit historic preservation organizations, and my older sister owns a gorgeous, 1930s, Victorian-style house with original, stained-glass windows and hardwood floors. Most of the homes that I review for BVI Property Guide have been recently built, so I rarely get to see houses with the personality and venerability of an historic home. But that changed when I visited Governor’s Point in Mansion Hall Estate, Maya Cove.
The entrance to Governor's Point. Photo by YachtShotsBVI.com.
Not only is Governor’s Point a distinguished, classic home with views of islands, sea and sky, but the front garden also features extensive stone ruins from the eighteenth-century residence of John Pickering, the first Lieutenant Governor of the BVI. Mansion Hall Estate is a private community of five properties on the beachside cape beside Buck Island and within walking distance to Hodge’s Creek Marina. The properties share a tennis court, private beach and boat launch. This is a one-of-a-kind property for its history, location, privacy and charm.
The private beach. Photo courtesy of Adam Richards.
Though historic, the house is ready for a modern family to move in. It was built for families. It even has a two-storey playhouse by the pool. I would’ve spent all my time in that playhouse as a kid—reading, drawing, putting on puppet shows. And the multiple lawns, terraces and pathways provide the ideal locale for games of hide-and-seek and flashlight tag or scavenger hunts. The rambling gardens are strewn with trees to climb.
The pool and playhouse. Photo by YachtShotsBVI.com.
The same garden setting that provides a limitless playground for children presented a botany lesson for me. At every turn, I asked Trish Dobson from Sotheby’s International Realty the name for a specific tree or paused to sniff a pink frangipani or scarlet ixora blossom. At Governor’s Point, I learned of the neem tree and the turpentine tree. The former, from the mahogany family, is known in India as “Nature’s Pharmacy.”According to Wikipedia, “Products made from neem tree have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties.” The tree also makes a natural windchime, I thought as the wind tapped through the numerous, thin, cascading leaves. Governor’s Point features several sprawling, sturdy turpentine trees, or gumbo-limbos, known for their hurricane resistance. They sport a red and peeling bark (the reason they are also often referred to as a “tourist tree”) that smells of turpentine when rubbed between the fingers. In addition to the neem and turpentine trees, I spotted the biggest rubber tree I’ve ever seen as well as countless palm, poui, loblolly, eucalyptus and sea grape trees and colossal organ pipe cacti.
The flora and its accompanying fauna (butterflies, bees, geckos and birds) almost overwhelmed me, but I was able to focus on life on land as long as I ignored the percussive rumblings of the sea breaking on the nearby reef. This proved to be difficult. Governor’s Point sits on a flat, lush, grass-covered knoll with 270-degree views of Hodge’s Creek, the Sir Francis Drake Channel and surrounding islands. The closest island is the privately owned Buck Island with its castle-like residence. Beyond Buck Island are Ginger, Cooper and Salt. As I said, it took a lot of control not to stand gawking at the palette of blue that ranged from cyan to sapphire.
The view from the verandah. Photo by YachtShotsBVI.com.
I tore myself away to wander the interiors of the capacious, airy main house and cosy guest house, managing to keep the sea in sight for most of my wanderings. Five sets of double French doors link the vast stone patio to the main house’s great room, and when open, they seamlessly extend the great room to the outdoor living space. The great room consists of two large sitting areas, the dining room and a gallery from which the three bedrooms are accessed. Again, I imagined a family happily occupying these spaces—eating a huge meal at the large farm table, assembling a jigsaw puzzle in one of the quieter nooks, or lounging on one of the sofas reading a book while enjoying the breeze. And the breeze penetrates the entire house due to the location of the house on a promontory.
The spacious master bedroom suite is composed of the bedroom, sunroom/office, en suite bathroom and walk-in closet. All rooms contain custom-made, built-in cabinetry—entertainment centres, shelving, cupboards, closets—that add to the uniqueness and durability of the home and its furnishings. In the master bathroom, an enormous, sunken teardrop tub with windows on two sides made me wonder if anyone could ever be too relaxed.
Two more bright and breezy bedrooms off the columned gallery feature en suite bathrooms and more custom cabinetry. White ceramic tiles on the countertops and showers add to the cool feel of the indoors. In one of the bedrooms, an adjacent sunroom has been converted into a child’s room. All bedrooms in the main house and the guest house are air conditioned.
Back through the gallery and great room, the kitchen has been recently updated with new GE Profile appliances—stove, wall ovens, dishwasher and refrigerator. More cool, white ceramic tiles bedeck the counters and centre island in the kitchen. Storage space abounds below the counters and island as well as in a built-in pantry. Windows above the sink overlook the grounds and the sea. Next to the kitchen is a laundry and utility room with a separate door to the outside.
The bright kitchen. Photo by YachtShotsBVI.com.
Once outside again, I walked down the garden path toward the shaded two-bedroom guest house beside the pool. The designers of this house had a keen awareness of all the best ways to keep interior spaces cool. Both the main house and the guest house feature impressive wooden pergolas that run the length of the buildings, covering the main patio areas. Double French doors in both bedrooms in the guest house open to the terracotta-tiled patio. Like the bedrooms in the main house, the guest house bedrooms are bright and breezy with cathedral ceilings. The guest house also has one bathroom and a small kitchen with a breakfast bar.
Outside the guest house is additional guest parking via a separate driveway which offers guests their own private entrance. Both driveways can only be entered through the community’s main gate. Aside from the gate, Mansion Hall Estate has the natural separation of its topography that juts out from mainland Tortola. Governor’s Point, with its sprawling gardens, history and distinguished buildings, quietly lords over the headland..