This post is also available in: Spanish
August 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Casa de Campo resort! So… Happy Birthday Casa de Campo!
And so in celebration of this remarkable milestone, here we bring you a brief history of the Casa de Campo resort, ‘Casa de Campo, 40 years in the making’ by Eliana Alba also published in the summer issue of TODO Casa de Campo magazine.
Casa de Campo, 40 years in the making by Eliana Alba
From concept to reality, remembering Casa de Campo’s remarkable 40-year journey.
This summer marks Casa’s 40th anniversary, yet when the resort opened its doors as an executive retreat for Gulf + Western in 1974, although undoubtedly a paradise, it was a far cry from the resort we know and love today.
The story begins in the 1960’s, when Álvaro Carta arrived to La Romana to run the Sugar Mill, then part of the Gulf + Western empire headed by Charles Bludhorn. Perhaps Casa’s first great sportsman, as well as a visionary, Carta decided to start developing the tourism industry and brought in famed golf course designer, Pete Dye, to create the Teeth of the Dog (TOTD). Opened in the fall of 1971, TOTD immediately became what is still today the best golf course in the Caribbean, and one of the best in the world.
Teeth of the Dog, 1971, Casa de Campo
While the fame and popularity of the TOTD grew, later that same year, Carta took a trip to the Sotogrande resort in Spain, a voyage which not only saw him bring back one of the world’s best polo players, Maharaj Jabar Singh, but is also thought to have been his inspiration for the creation of Casa. “I believe the idea came to Carta while seeing the beauty and success of Sotogrande, they are both quite similar”, speculates Bijai Singh, son of Maharaj Singh. The resort opened as an executive retreat for Gulf + Western just three years later, 40 years ago, in August 1974.
The official opening was celebrated with the World Amateur Team Championships played on the Teeth, the start of a non-stop streak of international events; the Sporting Life had begun. At the same time, Maharaja Singh, working alongside Calixto García-Vélez Sr., the vice-president for Livestock Operations and the father of our current polo director, Calixto García-Vélez Jr., developed their small breeding and training program into one of the best polo and equestrian facilities of the Caribbean.
The Punta Aguila Airport, Casa de Campo
During this same era, visitors arrived to the Punta Aguila airport, originally a 600m aviation strip built in the 60s for fumigation, lengthened to 1800m in the 1970s. Incredibly, this airstrip was intertwined with TOTD, with the runway cutting directly across holes 9,11 and 18. A bell would sound to warn of incoming or outgoing flights, and avoid collisions with crossing golfers. This original airport remained operational until 2000, when the new international airport was inaugurated.
In 1976, tennis was added with the construction of the La Terraza Tennis Club. Meanwhile, the Links golf course, Pete Dye’s second course in Casa de Campo, was also opened for play. The resort could not remain as all sport though; it had to diversify, to embrace all passions. It had to become a celebration of the talents and culture of this beautiful Caribbean country.
La Terraza Tennis Club, Casa de Campo
With that in mind, the construction of the ‘village of artists’ was undertaken, and in 1979, atop a hill overlooking the Chavón River, the cobbled streets of Altos de Chavón were officially inaugurated. The village developed as not only a center for art, but also for entertainment, as restaurants and shops opened. Today, while the structure remains the same, the only original store still open is Everett’s Designs.
Rosie and Bill Everett, Everett Designs, Altos de Chavon
Two years later, on the 20th of August of 1982 our famed Grecian-style amphitheatre was opened with the Concert for the Americas, starring Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Heart and Santana. Since then Chavón has played host to more than 170 great musicians from all over the world.
Yet, to truly celebrate Dominican art, Chavón needed to breed artists itself. Hence, in 1983 the Altos de Chavón School of Design was opened, today known as the leading art and design institute in the country.
With the new millenium came the opening of the international airport and the international port for cruise ships, as well as the Marina, inaugurated in December 2001. Shortly after, the 3rd Pete Dye golf course, the Dye Fore, opened in 2003. Rivalling the beauty of TOTD, with 7 breathtaking holes curving along the cliff towering above the Chavón river; the Dye Fore now boasts 27 holes, following the addition of the Dye Fore Lakes in 2011.
The Links golf course, Casa de Campo
While the resort continues to grow and develop, its charm is timeless. People often ask how you ever leave this place, and the truth is, you never do. Once you’ve visited Casa, it is almost impossible not to come back. The shots you take on the spectacular golf courses, the piña coladas you sip on Minitas Beach, the enchanting strolls through Altos de Chavón, it is the magic of these experiences that makes Casa de Campo the unique paradise it has become.
Casa de Campo today – a unique paradise
A BIG thank you to Jean Dye and Carol Burke for the images!