Many jewels in the Bahamian crown were sparkling bright well before the modern tale of the Bahamas would be told. Vast tracts of land, islands, cays, lucrative long-term financial arrangements and ties, would be settled more than a century before the average Bahamian could even consider or understood the relative importance of land and its commercial connections.
One of the most resplendent jewels in the crown of the Bahamas, is a tiny island just stone’s throw away from north-eastern corridor New Providence. The island was Hog Island, later renamed Paradise Island. Paradise Island, even from its humble beginnings, was always it seemed destined for great things.
In 1939, A Swedish industrialist name Dr. Axel Wenner-Gren docked his 322 foot yacht the Southern Cross, in Nassau Harbour. Wenner-Gren had been traveling the world in the yacht that he purchased from the famous Howard Hughes. The story goes that while he was docked in Nassau Harbour, he happened to glance over at Hog Island and fell immediately in love with the little island.
Wenner-Gren decided to buy the Lynch Estate built on Hog Island. The Lynch Estate was built my Joseph Lynch of the investment company Merrill, Lynch and Company. Wenner Gren would spends vast amounts of money dredging the swamp ponds and digging canals to link the Hog Island area with Nassau Harbour and the open sea.
A bit of bad luck would hit Wenner-Gren, when during World War II, the United States blacklisted Gren’s companies. Wenner-Gren had major financial interests in Bofors, a munitions company which was the Swedish branch of Krupp and Krupp supplied weapons and ammunition to Germany during World War II. Early in the war his rumored friendship with Herman Göring and the suspected German sympathies resulted in the Americans and, following their lead, the British, to place him on an economic blacklist, enabling them to freeze his assets in Nassau. Despite the blacklisting, because of his strategic financial interests, after World War II, Wenner-Gren became one of the richest men in the world. The black-listing by the Americans and the British meant that he could not return to the Bahamas. Wenner-Gren sat out World War 2 in Latin America.
In 1961, the same year Wenner-Gren died, he sold Hog Island to another person of considerable wealth. He sold the island to Huntington Hartford. It was Huntington Hartford who would change the name from Hog Island to Paradise Island by legal decree on May 23, 1962.
Even as early as the 1890’s, Hog Island had already gained a reputation for a tropical paradise by the wealthy and worldly of the Victorian era of England and of the newly independent country of the new United States.