The Reinhard Hotel
Bahamian history seeps from every inch of the four-storey Reinhard Hotel that occupies the corner of Baillou Hill Road and Tin Shop Corner. Initially designed and constructed by Dr. Claudius Roland Walker and Mrs. Mabel Walker in the 1930s, the hotel furnished the stage for everything from social soirees to local business operation to pivotal moments in Bahamian political history. Perhaps the paramount year in the Hotel’s history was 1967, when the space served as headquarters to the Progressive Liberal Party during the landmark 1967 elections that led to Majority Rule.
At the time of the hotel’s construction, black visitors were prohibited from residing in major hotels owing to their race. The Reinhard Hotel helped to answer this community need and went on to become a prominent social center for the neighborhood, hosting many weddings, parties, and other gatherings as well as offering space for local businesses. Dr. Walker’s own medical office occupied a section of the first floor of the Reinhard Hotel. At that time Dr. Walker was one of only a handful of Bahamian medical practitioners and served many Bahamians as their primary physician. Other businesses that operated on the premises included a hardware store, a restaurant, a pharmacy, and The Voice. A newspaper, The Voice served to educate Bahamians about their rights and held true to the core belief of its editor, Dr. Walker, that education offered the key to political and economic independence. Furthermore, at the same time that The Voice informed the community about current social and political events, its offices served as a meeting place where like-minded Bahamians could meet and discuss change in a welcoming environment at a turbulent time.
The Reinhard Hotel fostered an atmosphere conducive to radical and progressive movements. Not only did The Voice occupy the establishment for nearly two decades but also leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement met at the Hotel during the 1950s. In later years the Bahamas Union of Teachers, whose president at the time was Mrs. Mabel Walker, utilized the Hotel as a meeting space where they would work towards better salaries and improved training and recognition for teachers. In 1967, amid the rising chorus of calls for social and political change, the Hotel played host to the Progressive Liberal Party as it spearheaded the thrust to deepen democracy in the then colony. In doing so the Hotel solidified its place in Bahamian history.