Englerston, as a planned subdivision, was conceived of almost one hundred years ago, during a time when most of the island of New Providence was still pine forest and thick, impassable woodland.
1925 was a year of substantial land development for New Providence. No less than five major land schemes were announced that year, all undertaken by American investors. They followed the south Florida model of subdividing huge tracts of land, installing access roads and minimal infrastructure, then selling the blue sea, constant sun dream to Americans. Subdivisions, the new styled, freehold living spaces, were popping up everywhere across the New Providence. The salient selling points for the American market were exclusivity, investment potential, proximity to the shopping precinct of Bay Street and nearness to beaches. Marketed mostly to middle class and upper middle class white American second home buyers, the idea of the housing subdivision became a real estate speculator’s dream. It made some very wealthy. For others, over leveraged investments were lost as money put on the wrong plot of land, in the wrong area, became more challenging to quickly sell at a reasonable profit.
Romanian born Jacob S. Engler, the man who created Englerston
In the early 1900s, the capital island New Providence was still mostly undeveloped bush and thick areas of impassible woodlands. It was land that had either been granted to settlers since the 1700s, partitioned, then sold and resold for 200 years as large private parcels or it was crown land, waiting to be sold by the government to the right developer. For one particular area, bordered by East Street, Wulff Road and Bluehill Road, Englerston was marketed as Nassau’s Master Suburb.
Jake S. Engler merchant millionaire loses his fortune when the real estate bubble suddenly burst in 1926
J. S. Engler was Jewish, a native of Romania. He emigrated to Key West, Florida in 1898 at the age of 15. Engler came along with a brothers Abraham and Harry. With antisemitism growing in Romania forcing the relocation and expulsion of Jews, in the late 1800s, many like Engler left their native land. Engler at 21, became a naturalised American citizen in 1904. By 1909, the brothers had a grocery store. Abraham would gain local Miami notoriety for feeding those who suffered from the hurricane that hit Florida that year. Harry went to Havana, Cuba. Engler came to Nassau.
In 1919, Engler came to The Bahamas. He was seeking opportunities in food import/export and grocery business in Nassau. Eventually he invested in real estate both in Nassau and in Florida. By his 42nd year, Engler’s largest real estate investment was in Nassau. He had almost 12 miles of improved roads put in and 10,000 coconut trees were planted to create an aesthetic appeal to would be investors. Engler called it Englerston.
Jake Engler applies for passport in 1919. He listed his reason to travel to the Bahama Islands as wanting to “investigate the grocery business with a view to engaging in same.”
In 1926, the unexpected happened. Florida’s over leveraged, real estate bubble suddenly burst. This became a real problem for The Bahamas, as many of the real estate developers responsible for new projects in Nassau, were Florida based. Jake Engler’s fortune was wiped out. Broke, with illness spurred on by the sudden loss of fortune, Engler went back to Florida for a short time. In 1931, Engler was living between Nassau and Miami.
Jake Engler was still living in Nassau for years after he lost his fortune. In 1931, Jake’s brother Abraham died, it was noted that Jake flew in for the funeral from Nassau. (The Miami Herald, Saturday, 17 January, 1931)
By the time World War II began, Engler had gone back to his Romanian agricultural roots. He became a grape grower in Florida. In 1941, he made headlines for contributing to the war fund.
1925 WAS A BOOM YEAR FOR SUBDIVISION DEVELOPMENT ON NEW PROVIDENCE AIMED AT THE SECOND HOME AMERICAN BUYER MARKET
POLITICS, POVERTY AND POSSIBILITIES CHARACTERISES THE PLIGHT OF THE POORER COMMUNITIES ON NEW PROVIDENCE TODAY
Englerston, first became a contested political constituency in 1967, after the number of contestable areas were expanded. Clifford Darling won the seat in 1967 for the Progressive Liberal Party. Over the forty years or so, since Bahamian independence in 1973, it has become as a key political battleground constituency.
Whatever Jake Engler initially envisioned for Englerston, when first marketed to a Miami audience in 1925, with its much promoted 10,000 coconut tree lush subdivision, ‘Nassau’s master suburb,’ didn’t materialise as expected on paper. It’s proximity to the historically negro area of Grant’s Town, foreshadowed its future. Englerston, separated only by Wulff Road (which runs on a short stretch west to east course), truly took shape as the negro population of Nassau grew in the 1930s to 1960s. Englerston’s housing plots were sold to black Bahamians seeking to move out of the densely populated, nearby Grant’s Town.
Englerston, like Bain’s Town and Grant’s Town, was the cradle that nurtured a new generation of Bahamians who became future professional, political and intellectual elites of New Providence.
Englerston was once home to some of the first groups of Bahamians who would, move out of the inner city to more suburban, affluent areas, of New Providence, as more opportunities emerged after 1967. They would become part of group which formed the new black middle class of New Providence.
As the Majority Rule era rolled in, post 1967, Englerston like Bain Town and Grant’s Town, were considered part of the areas, which gave birth to the Bahamian grassroots community. Grassroots underpinned the Pindling-led PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) core political ideology from the late 1950s.
2010 – Englerston reported as having lowest mean income of three poorest areas of Bain and Grant’s Town, Englerston and Carmichael
Englerston today, some Bahamian political pundits proclaim, is a community in serious decline and wanton dilapidation. It is a mix of the remnants of homes from the 1950s, new buildings, substandard housing, elements of immigrant shantytowns, and profitable commercial businesses aimed at the local community. Mingled amongst it all, there have been varying attempts at urban renewal and gentrification. Infrastructural development, strict zoning and substantial government investment in the socioeconomic opportunities available to the inhabitants of Englerston represent the way forward for this constituency. However, though easily articulated, in practice, are not easy to fund or implement.
According to a published 2019 research paper of Bahamian prisoners, their residences and schools prior to incarceration, in cooperation with the University of Bahamas, InterAmerican Development Bank, Bahamas Department of Statistics and the Bahamas Prison Service, the constituency of Englerston, in 2010, despite having a mean household annual income of $28,519 was still considered among the poorest of the 25 constituencies comprising New Providence.