Valentine’s Day:  What Does “Love City” Mean to You?

Valentine’s Day: What Does “Love City” Mean to You?

Happy Valentine’s Day!  A day for lovers and friends and significant others and the singles.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be for those who are hopelessly in love.  It can simply be a day of spreading love to all, telling someone what they mean to you, making a difference in the life of a child, taking your pup for an extra long walk or taking yourself for a spa and date day.  And, like Valentine’s Day, and love in general, the LOVE in “Love City” takes on many special meanings for many people all over the world.  In the spirit of the day, I thought today might be a good time to reflect a bit on where the name came from and what Love City really means….

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Honestly, there are probably many Coconut Telegraph tales of how St. John came to be known as Love City.   But if there are, I haven’t heard them.  And, to be honest, digging around online, even with my crazy Google skills, turned up little in the way of results.  There are plenty of references to Paris as “The City of Love,” Philadelphia as “The City of Brotherly Love” and A TON of articles and posts about different organizations and non-profits that sprouted up in the months following Irma.  But not a whole lot that reference “Why is St. John called Love City?”

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Image courtesy of Active St. John

I did find one interesting article that references the naming of all three of the US Virgin Islands in the 1970’s on LargeUp.com, a global platform for Caribbean music, arts and culture.  At which point I went down a rabbit hole and am now following the site across all platforms 🙂

The 2016 article was entitled Virgin Islands Nice:  How St. John Became Love City.  It’s a fantastic piece and I encourage you to read the whole thing.  But, in reference to the task at hand, the author writes:

Sometime around the 1970s, each of the three U.S. Virgin Islands picked up a nickname. St. Thomas became Rock City, on account of its mountainous terrainSt. Croix, which has two main urban centers in Christiansted and Frederiksted, came to be called Twin City. And St. John took on the enviable, if somewhat more enigmatic, title of Love City.

The origins of these monikers, still widely used by Virgin Islanders, are murky and subject to different retellings. One thing that is certain, though, is that they were spread by radio DJs, who would call out to residents of the different islands with these endearing alter egos. Radio Antilles, which broadcast across the Caribbean from Montserrat before its transmitter was destroyed in the volcanic eruption of 1995, was one conduit. Some say the late Llewellyn Sewer, a DJ and music producer from St. John known as “Trucker Man” and “Big Lew,” is the source of all three nicknames. If that’s the case, Sewer, who passed away in 1994, took the story behind the naming of “Love City” with him to the grave. – LargeUp.com

And thus was born the greatest organic marketing campaign of all time.  And, arguably the most accurate.

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From the white sand beaches to the sparkling blue waters surrounding it, St. John emulates romance.  A love affair with the sea, the land, a special someone or the beautiful community here is bound to ignite in the souls of all who visit her.  Rockefeller’s wishes for the preservation of 60% of the land as  carried out by the National Park Service will, indeed, keep that love light burning.  Despite recent developments and inevitable evolution on this little rock, we will never see a Hyatt or a Hilton perched above Hawksnest.  We will never see a Disney Cruise ship at Cinnamon Bay.  A large piece of this beautiful place will remain forever unchanged by anything except Mother Nature herself.

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Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island of St. John in 2017

I pondered the Love City question to myself for many years when I first arrived here.  While working at Asolare, I watched each day as the sun set and shifted along the horizon line with the seasons, the planets rotated positions in their evening dance, the moon waxed and waned and waxed again….I gazed down at the seemingly “quiet” little town below, knowing it was a far cry from “quiet” when you were in it, and decided that the water of Cruz Bay itself was heart shaped.  “That must be it,” I thought.

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Cruz Bay overlook

But, as I went through the growing pains of my first few years here, learning how to make island living a bit easier and how to juggle and shift with the things that wouldn’t bend themselves, I decidedly switched my gaze from my beautiful new surroundings to the people around me.  “No, that is why it’s called Love City!”


There were several women who guided me in those developmental years of settling into life on a rock.  Kim Holland, bar tendress extraordinaire, commonly led me in different directions, never lapsing on telling me when I needed to step up my game or shift my gaze.  Gina…She had ALL of the local remedies and ointments and oils and her free spirited hula hooping, fire dancing soul resonated with me.  And Wanda.  She constantly looked at me stern gaze that seemed to say “Why are you letting them talk to you like that?”  Stand up for yourself.  Some of their love was tough, some was fun, some was difficult to understand at the time.  But, for all of it, I am grateful.  For all of it, I am who I am today.

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My formative years of “Life on a Rock” were spent with this backdrop and a lot of behind the scenes guidance and support.

You see, I think the true Love in Love City comes from people helping people without an ulterior motive.  Well, maybe one…By making each other better people, we make this a better place to be.  Help the good ones out.  Get them to stick around.  Grow the community.  Water both the trees with deep roots and the sprouts trying to find their way.

The human connection on this island is one I have never experienced anywhere else in “the real world.”  If you’re familiar with the movie Almost Famous, you’ll get my reference there.  I remember having to actually GO to the post office, to the bank, to the laundromat.  Cell phones only worked about half the time back then, yet you always seemed to run into exactly the person you needed to talk to.  Or maybe someone you hadn’t seen for a while and had been thinking about.  We stop on the streets and have real conversations with each other.  We ask each other,  “How are you?” with intent on listening to the answer.

It’s true, when you fall in love with a person who has shared this place with you (platonically, romantically or otherwise) you never truly leave each other.  The moments shared here on St. John are magical and create the most lasting bonds of love that I have ever known.

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Bonding moments

Yes, maybe some things have changed around here in recent years.  Maybe some of that romantic flame dwindles from time to time.  Maybe, in the rush of day to day now being considered a “grown up” with many things to accomplish in a day, I don’t get to the beach or out on the trails or out with old friends as often as I would like.  But, a quick walk through town and a knowing glance from a community member on the street or a brief conversation with an old friend or a pleasant “Good Morning” from someone I don’t know always reminds me of what the Love in Love City decidedly meant to me what feels like a life time ago.

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So, think about this…Aside from the beaches and the happy hours and the lingering sunsets.  What was your “AHA” Love City moment?  What was the one trip or the one person or the one second in time when you told yourself, “That’s it!  That’s why they call St. John “Love City.”

Today, on Valentine’s Day, I want to wish all of the LOVE in Love City to all of my St. John family, near and far.  You know that you never truly leave this place.  And, if it’s been a while since you have been back, maybe it’s time for a visit and a whole lot of hugs 🙂


4 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day: What Does “Love City” Mean to You?”

  1. Perfectly said, Hillary! I agree it’s the people of St. John! My husband & I have been going to St. John since 1990 & have created special bonds w/ people there. Ann Marie Porter being one of them. She is definitely all about LOVE! We had here renew our vows on Cinnamon 2 years ago & 2 of our favorite people from St. John were witnesses. Also, I think visiting St. John just puts a whole lot more love in anyones heart, that’s why it’s so special. I just miss the old days w/ less buildings & fewer crowds.

  2. I’m from a generation way back. Caneel guests 80’s and 90’s. Resident 2000-2016. The visitors to the island came for the national park in part created by Laurance Rockefeller and his family. Thank heavens he was able to preserve so much of the island from development. Meanwhile, visitors don’t have a clue how hard, how trying, how complicated living on a small island can be. From dealing with the government agencies, trying to run a business, to just getting supplies and groceries…..so hard it wears many down. So, the LOVE comes from everyone who lives there supporting and helping each other in every way possible. Especially after a serious hurricane hits and devastates the island and cuts out the conveniences (like electricity, water, food). “Love City” came about from the care each islander showed to each other, whether native-born, long time resident, or newbie. Visitors don’t see a bit of the struggle and fortitude it takes to live one’s daily life in such a beautiful, but challenging place.

  3. Nancy B – we as tourists ( when we can ) appreciate everything you say, well REAL visitors anyway.
    We can’t afford to come every year and as I retire next week we may never come again – being on a fixed budget now- we are sooooo sad.
    But the last time we came and before we were in awe of the way the island had worked so hard to get things working again and perfect roadways etc.
    I was even thinking of getting in touch with the Governor to tell him how proud he should be of everyone who had pulled together to make the island look so beautiful again after the devastating storms.
    Amazing. We will miss you 🙁

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