On a quiet stretch of beach behind a low seawall a brightly painted cottage is almost hidden behind 100-year-old seagrape trees that lean towards the ocean.
The single-storey timber building, around 80 years old, is a rarity now – a relic from a time when beachfront land was plentiful and inexpensive.
Sitting, as it does, in a less-developed area, fronting Boggy Sand Road, it provides a window through which modern visitors can imagine Seven Mile Beach as it once was.
It is an image that some fear could disappear amid the northward creep of development.
The home, which belongs to Beth Roulstone, was once a shipping office in George Town.
“They were getting ready to put a new building on Cardinall Avenue for Scotiabank and they said that anyone who wanted it could have it for peanuts,” says Roulstone.
“My mother-in-law decided she could turn it into a little house. They had to take it down in sections and bring it out here and put it back together.”
At the time, Boggy Sand Road was just a sandy path on the crest of the beach ridge. It got the name from the fact that every bicycle or car that tried to traverse the sandy path would get ‘bogged’ down or stuck.
Lots by the beach were not particularly coveted as people preferred to live inland in relative safety from the threat of storms.
Roulstone said her father-in-law, Frank Roulstone, Sr., and mother-in-law, Dorothy, who owned and operated the Seaview Hotel in George Town at the time, decided to take a risk on establishing a guesthouse where tourists could stay.
Rival visions of Seven Mile Beach
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- The environmental perspective: Natural and man-made problems cast shadows over Seven Mile’s future
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- The settler’s perspective: Window into the past
- The political perspective: Candidates seek to balance environment and the economy
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Upon their passing, Beth and her late husband Frank took over the house and added it to their two rental units which were built next door on the same property in 1980.
“It is a very popular little house. Everybody that stays here loves it,” she said.
“There is probably only a handful of old homes like this one left on the beach. If they keep on the way they are going there will be nothing but big, multi-storey condominiums and hotels everywhere.”
While she believes younger visitors might like newer hotels with modern amenities, she believes long-time Cayman visitors appreciate the peace and tranquility of the northern end of the beach.
She says she understands why many landowners sold their properties. She has had opportunities to sell and has considered it.
“I went through a phase where I thought about selling it, but I talked to the children and we decided to keep it in the family. We could never buy this much beachfront land in Cayman today so we figured we should hold on to it.”
Her daughter Shirley has fond memories from her childhood of a different Cayman and a different Seven Mile Beach.
“The turtle and beef market was opposite where Heritage Kitchen is on the beach side. They butchered turtles and cows there and we would always go watch that fascinating process. Can you imagine there was that much beach back then?”
She remembers there were few other homes along the beach and the children would play in the sea all day, sliding on the moss-covered slabs of rock or trying to ‘run seas’ – their own version of body surfing.
“At night there were only a few lights visible between West Bay and George Town. The rest was just darkness, but the stars were amazing. Oh, for the good old days when Cayman was considered the islands time forgot.”
- This story is part of our ‘Seven on Seven’ feature series this week looking at the future of development in Cayman, and in the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular, from multiple perspectives.