About the Mill Reef Club
Mill Reef was conceived over 60 years ago as a "community of blue waters, white beaches and sweeping vistas." Encompassing 5 miles of coastline and 3 islands, there are no crowds, no battles for beach chairs or scheduled tee times.
Mill Reef was founded in 1947 by Robertson (“Happy”) Ward, a visionary architect and promoter who foresaw the demand for travel and leisure in the aftermath of World War II. Ward aimed to create a private resort where like-minded people of diverse interests could vacation. After lengthy investigation, he chose Antigua for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters and steady breezes.
Ward’s vision was to build a club full of interesting and diverse members, adventurous enough to travel to an unknown island with few amenities. He wanted a resort that respected the integrity of its natural beauty and avoided excessive displays of wealth (which he believed had spoiled other private clubs). Original building rules stated that houses were to be simply designed, could have no more than two bedrooms and could cost no more than $25,000 to build!
“Mill Reef remains a rare, shining tribute to a gentler, less commercial vision of paradise.”
Ward recruited members by word-of-mouth throughout U.S. cities in the Northeast and Midwest, and across the British Commonwealth. The initial 45 Proprietary members paid $7,500 for their home lots. These funds financed construction of a clubhouse that opened for guests in 1949. A nine-hole golf course followed in 1953. Early Proprietary members included U.S. industrialists such as DuPont, Mott, Gould, Watson, Cowles, Endicott and (from across the ‘pond’) Astor, as well as diplomats like Dean Acheson and the poet Archibald MacLeish. Non-resident members, who stayed in the clubhouse, were recruited by Proprietary members and high-end U.S. travel agents.
Early club rules reflected a formal British style. Coats and ties were de rigueur at dinner, as were tennis whites on the courts. Originally, children were not allowed to stay at the club. (Vintage photos suggest early members may have feared the presence of little ones might spoil the adult fun! ) By the mid-80’s, however, Mill Reef welcomed children and became increasingly family-friendly. Today there are activities for guests of all ages and a strong tradition of multi-generational family holidays. After more than 50 years, Mill Reef remains proudly true to Happy Ward’s vision of “a Caribbean community of blue waters, white beaches and sweeping vistas dedicated to good fellowship.”