How many of you have been sitting over at Maho or Francis bays and noticed a small ruin on the top of the hill to the left? I always wondered what it was, so I finally checked it out back in the summer of 2015. We were in the middle of the drought then, so while the views were amazing, they were a tad crunchy as opposed to being green and lush like we’re accustomed to.
Fortunately we’ve had an abundance of rain lately, and our island is green and lush once again. So I set back out to the ruins yesterday, and the hike was definitely worth it.
The trail to the America Hill ruins begins at Cinnamon Bay right next to those ruins. It’s actually a spur off of the Cinnamon Bay trail. You can park right there at the trailhead or over at Cinnamon Bay. The beginning of the trail is the most challenging as it’s mostly straight up and it can be quite sunny in spots. Luckily this part of lasts for a few minutes and there’s a nice stone bench for you to rest on at the top should you need to.
From there the trail pretty much levels off and you’re now shaded by the trees. You’ll soon cross a gut, and then you will come to a sign that for the America Hill trail, which veers off to the left. From there it’s only about a 10-15 minute walk depending on your speed. There are five switchbacks before reaching the top.
And once you make it to the top, you are greeted by this:
As you can see in the pic above, you can see both Francis and Maho bays. You can also see out to Waterlemon Cay and Sopers Hole in Tortola.
Here are a few more pics from the ruins:
And here is a description of the ruins courtesy of See St. John:
The America Hill Estate House is an excellent example of late nineteenth century Virgin Island architecture. Much attention was obviously given to an aesthetically pleasing design as well as to functionality, the limitations of the building site, and the availability of materials and labor.
In the early 1900s, America Hill served as a guesthouse where travelers could rent rooms. One of the last tenants was rumored to be Rafael Leónides Trujillo, former dictator of the Dominican Republic.
Some older St. Johnians say that the estate house was also used as a headquarters for rum-runners during the prohibition days.
As was the custom in those days, the cookhouse, or kitchen, was built as a separate structure. The remains of the cookhouse are to the right of the main building. The date 1934 is inscribed on the cooking bench. To the left of the estate house ruins are the remnants of a cistern and a well.
And a nice little video we took from the top:
The entire trail, back and forth, took only about an hour. And that includes a few minutes to check my email along the route and time to take pics and video at the top. One word of caution is that the ruins are very unstable, so enjoy them from afar. But definitely check them out the next time you’re here on island.
Have a great week everyone!