A Look Back to How It All Began
Many of the hotels, bars and restaurants that were on Grand Cayman years ago are gone now - Galleon Beach, Holiday Inn, Pageant Beach, Royal Palms, the Crow's Nest and many other old establishments succumbed to hurricanes, fires and new developments.
Although Sunset House has had it shares of all those perils, it has not only survived, it has thrived! Still enormously popular with residents and tourists, the Caymanian landmark celebrated its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2009.
Owner Adrien Briggs, 63, has been with Sunset House since the very beginning. After his father passed away in Brighton, England, the 12 year old Adrien moved to Grand Cayman with his Caymanian mother in 1958.
Mother Hebe was the daughter of Captain Huber and Marie Bodden. She had gone off to school in Jamaica, where she had met Adrien's English father, who she eventually followed back to England.
After returning to Cayman after her husband's death, Hebe used the life insurance money to purchase an old Caymanian home on a 4.5 acre property that had almost 500 feet of ocean frontage.
Adrien credits his mother with not only having the wisdom to invest the life insurance money in property, but for also deciding to start a hotel.
Six guest rooms were added to the main house soon after she purchased the house and Sunset House was born.
It didn't take Hebe long to figure out there was enough demand to expand, something that was easy to do given the size of the property.
The first expansion occurred in 1965, when two concrete block guest cottages were built. In 1968, another two one bedroom apartments were added. And according to Adrien, after that expansion, every year they added something.
Eventually, the hotel reached 59 guest rooms, although only 55 of them are available for guests today.
Hebe passed away in 1982 at the age of 72, and left ownership of Sunset House in trust for her grandchildren, Adrien's two daughters and son and his sister Dawn's daughter.
The Dive Operation - Sunset Divers
Sunset House took an important step when it opened its dive shop in 1972, as the hotel began catering more to divers. Sport Diving, like tourism was still in its infancy in the early 70s. The original Sunset Diver boats were not sophisticated. The first boat was a pontoon raft with an outboard motor, which Adrien laughs about now!
Sunset House and Sunset Divers really became a force when it bought two new boats from Virginia in 1980. They were the first custom-made dive boats in the Cayman Islands. Sunset House currently has six custom made dive boats in their fleet.
The ability to affordably accommodate divers and then offer them full dive services - including great shore diving - has been key to Sunset House's success. (Approximately 80 - 90 percent of Sunset House guests are divers.
Always looking for a competitive edge, Sunset House commissioned Simon Morris to create a nine foot tall, 600 pound bronze statue of a mermaid. Amphitrite, Siren of Sunset Reef- as the statue is officially named - was submerged in 50 feet of water just offshore from the hotel and draws the visit of thousands of divers each year.
In addition to Amphitrite, Sunset House sank the LCM David Nicholson, an old naval landing craft that was named after the first dive master to work with Sunset Divers. The wreck of the Nicholson lies just offshore from the hotel, in just over 60 feet of water.
The saga continues Part 2 Surge, Wind and Fire and My Bar
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