Hip. Modern. Historic.
That may sound like an oxymoron, but “The Fred” St Croix’s first new hotel to open in 30 years is all that and more.
Patience and perseverance have absolutely paid off with the opening of The Fred. Working with Historic Preservation and Coastal Zone management to open the beachfront boutique hotel complex wasn’t always easy, but Topher and Jeff persisted and used their expertise in property development and management to create an incredible oasis that honors both local history and incorporates modern conveniences appreciated by today’s traveler. All while maintaining a focus on the environment.
Their story starts a few years ago when Jeff decided he was tired of the cold, the traffic and the hustle of life in the DC Metro area. He announced he wanted to move to an island. Topher’s response was “I’ve always wanted to live on an island! Manhattan!” But Jeff had warmer, more tropical ambitions and so they started on a 14 island quest to find the perfect place to call home. Eventually, they made it to St Croix and fell in love. It had just the right amount of space, tranquility and up-and-comingness to meet their requirements.
I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the hotel property which recently had its soft opening and got the inside scoop on all the truly exciting things planned for the final phases.
Named for King Frederik of Denmark (the namesake of Frederiksted) The Fred had its soft opening this past winter 2017 and currently has 12 of the planned 22 guest rooms open for reservations with deep discounts offered as they continue to finish the final phases of construction. The plans shared with me by proprietor, Topher Swanson, during our tour had me giddy with excitement!
Topher and his partner Jeff have a deep background in property management, including hosting very successful AirBnB accommodations stateside. They’ve taken their expertise and divine sense of detail to create the best of the best in hotel experiences on St Croix. The Fred aims to envelope you in Crucian history, while offering luxury and hi-tech amenities. Borrowing from their own traveling experiences abroad, they have also structured the boutique hotel complex to encourage guests to mingle with each other in the guest house sitting areas, at “family breakfasts” and in the common areas. By fostering a sense of community at The Fred, they hope to inspire guests to make lifelong connections that bring them back year after year.
What made you choose St Croix?
“The US. Because we could own land here. English was the spoken language. US Dollar was the currency. All the federal rules apply and as a gay man that was important to me in the Caribbean. Because not all the islands are gay-friendly. We went to St Thomas and St John. St Thomas was kind of urban again and didn’t feel like an island sometimes. Puerto Rico didn’t feel like an island and traffic was horrible, worse than DC. St John felt like Georgetown… too many rules, too much ‘country club’ for my taste. … And then we literally got here and said ‘this feels like DC 20 years ago’, its great! At the Destination Symposium they referred to St Croix as the most historic island in the Caribbean which is neat. They also called it the ‘chill’ island.” ~ Topher Swanson
For the History Buff
The Fred is a conglomeration of historic structures. Two of them, Totten House and Murray House were historic homes that had families attached to them. Rooms throughout The Fred are named for members of the prominent families who once called them home.
Totten House was the home of Ashley Totten, a celebrated civil rights leader and the co-founder of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters Union which was the first African-American led labor resistance and part of the Haarlem Renaissance.
Ashley’s father was a grave-digger and from historical research it seemed that he was religious and believed strongly in family. Census records show that his father, Arlington, lived with him for an extended period of time through Ashley’s adulthood. Todd was married twice, first to Camilla who passed away, then to Violet.
Thus, rooms in Totten House bear the names of Totten family members: “Ashley & Camilla”, “Violet”, “Arlington”, “Walter” (his son), “Bertrand” and “Millie”.
Another of the homes at The Fred is Douglas House, once owned by textile and style maven Murray Douglas who was the Vice Chair and Heiress of Brunschwig & Fils. Brunschwig & Fils textiles have, for decades, adorned high profile homes and iconic places like the Oval Office and the Palace at Versaille. Legend has it that Murray was sitting at a local restaurant (possibly in Totten House) and saw through the window that the home was for sale. She bought it sight-unseen. Yep, the draw to Frederiksted is that strong. Trust me, you’ll feel it when you’re here. As you enter the building, you’ll come up stairs made of historic Danish yellow brick and be charmed by the original Victorian-era gingerbread trim. You’ll feel like Crucian royalty when you stay here as the famed fabrics adorn the rooms in Douglas House, a nod to Murray. In Douglas House you’ll find “Murray”, “Albert” (her husband), “Frances” (her son) and “Aunt B” (Murray’s Aunt Zelina Brunschwig, founder of the famed textile house).
For the Environmentalist
- The pride of the property are the Capstone Microturbine generators. The turbine is run by frictionless magnets keeping it quieter and it’s fueled by propane. The exhaust is recycled 9 times before being discharged. Eventually, in regards to electricity, The Fred will be completely self-sustaining and off the grid making the property entirely green. The entire property, at full occupancy, with every hair dryer running produces less carbon footprint than one automobile.
- The common bathroom/changing rooms by the pool are unisex and designed with a comfortable grated floor (I tested it with bare feet!) so that sand and water runs right through. Because, there’s an overhead shower inside for rinsing off too! The “sweet water” will be used to irrigate the landscaping.
- The large saltwater pool has an infinity “knife edge”. When water is displaced from folks stepping in, the overflow goes into a dedicated cistern and is recycled and pumped back in when everyone gets out.
- Environmentally-friendly practices and products are used throughout the boutique hotel.
No details have been left to chance at The Fred. This is where High-Tech meets History!
- Each house has its own unique style. The colors on the walls are recommended by sleep psychologists to invoke a deeper REM sleep.
- All mattresses are Tempurpedic brand for comfort.
- Pillows on the bed are down firm and poly firm. Eventually, the plan is to have a “pillow menu” where you can choose your pillows prior to check-in.
- Chandelier in Totten House is also a ceiling fan!!
- Flat Screen TVs are state-of-the-art and allow you to enter your own accounts on Netflix, Hulu, etc. And you’ll be able to check your bill in real-time.
- Each room has a coordinated balcony sitting area. The spaces are shared with your neighbor encouraging guests to mingle and share information.
- For those addicted to their devices, like me, there’s an outlet at every bar seat to plug in!
- Currently there are 12 guest rooms available in Totten House, Murray House and The Love Schack.
- An additional 10 rooms are slated to open by next season (Winter 2018) in the newly built Prinz/Swanson House which will still have an historic flair.
- The restaurant will be open and you’ll be able to Eat at The Fred sometime after May 2017.
- The beachside, modern Sky Deck with satellite bar and wading pool is expected to be open then too.
- The expansive knife edge pool will be finished by late spring 2017.
- A 17 foot wide boardwalk will be installed along the entire stretch of the beach with dinner seating.
- The Fred will also feature a 400 sq foot mostly floating dock. With moveable sections, it can extend 80 feet for boats to dock. During weddings and events, it can be shifted in a more wide orientation for effect.
Relax with Fred
You’ll find full service at the top notch spa where you can Relax with Fred. Sit back in the fab-u-lous pedicure chair to get your tootsies beach ready. Indulge in a massage to relax into island mode. Treat your skin to a professional facial or get ready to step out on the town with a cut, color and blow out!
Shop with Fred
No boutique hotel is complete without swag. You can find Fred branded items as well as other traveler treats and St Croix souvenirs in their gift shop. Right now it’s open M-F from about 1pm to 5pm and on Cruise ship days. Be sure to grab a pair of Bottles Reimagined upcycled Cruzan Rum glasses or soy candles while you’re there!
Keeping it in the Family
While we wait patiently to “Eat and Drink with Fred” you can take a short stroll right next door to the newest beach bar in Frederiksted, Louie and Nachos! Not only does it have fantastic ocean views, but it also has a great story and fun connection to The Fred. Close friends of Topher and Jeff in DC were also ready for a change, so they headed down for a vacation and to check the island out. They fell in love with St Croix and stayed with the guys while they searched for the perfect beach bar location. Originally, they had been contracted for another spot, but that fell through at the last minute. As fate would have it, at the same time, the space next door to The Fred, above Turtles Deli, became available. The bar has counter seating all along the open air perimeter – so everyone has a view of the Caribbean sunset. Now serving lunch and dinner, the kitchen is open until 10pm – the perfect spot to grab a bite after a night dive at the Frederiksted Pier.
Fun Fact: The options on the drink menu are named after the doggie family members of the crew including the owners of The Fred! At lunch, I ordered Cassie’s Rum Punch and it turned out it was named after Topher’s pup Cassie who I had just met. And of course Louie and Nacho, are the bar owners dogs.
If you’re ready to sleep with Fred too, you can find rates and make a reservation on their website, appropriately www.sleepwithfred.com