In the history of Guantanamo Bay, there have been several activities and agencies other than Naval that have either left their mark or are still present with us. Among those still present are the Cable Station and the Coast Guard, the latter being under the Treasury Department. The War and Commerce Departments have also played minor parts, the Army particularly in the matter of fortifications. The foregoing activities will be briefly discussed.
Reference has been made to the cable cutting activities of the St. Louis during the Spanish-American War. These cables were laid by a French company under Spanish concessions granted in 1887 and 1888, and a cable station has been maintained at or near its original location on Fisherman's Point ever since. The name of the French company was "Compagnie Francaise des Cables Telegraphie".
On 25 March 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt agreed "that the Central and South American Cable Company may lay, construct, land, maintain, and operate telegraph lines of cables which having started at or near the city of New York shall land near Windward Point in the Government Reservation near Guantanamo in the Island of Cuba (such landing point to be connected by a heavy bay cable with Fisherman's Point, where the company is granted permission to erect and maintain station buildings, the tracts for same to be selected by the Secretary of War) and at a point on the Isthmus of Panama within the jurisdiction of the United States." This quotation is part of a document that was later implemented by a definitive license to the company, dated 6 February 1908, and signed by the Assistant Secretary of War. Copies of both documents have been obtained and are on file.
Pursuant to the above authority (and probably in advance of it) the Central and South American Cable Company laid the first cable from New York to Guantanamo Bay, and from there to Panama, reputedly in 1907. It appears that this ompany took over from the French company their cable facilities near Fisherman's Point and over the years built up the Cable Station to its present status.
Fear of Cuban revolutions, and the possible cutting off of normal communications between the Naval Station and the outside world, was a factor in bringing about the license to the cable company. Both government and cable company stood to gain. In the unsettled years ahead in Cuba, the decision paid off many times.
An interesting allusion to the status of the Cable Station is found in an Opinion of the Solicitor of the Navy Department approved by the Secretary of the Navy 13 November 1915:
"�that where a private cable company had established a Station on the government reservation at Guantanamo under license from the Government and was operating not only for the profit of the Company, but also for the convenience and benefit of the Government, its position was analogous to that of an instrumentality of the Government and therefore sales of Government provisions to employees of this company might legally be authorized."
The question naturally arises as to how a commercial enterprise like the Cable Station can legally exist on the Naval Reservation in view of the terms of the US-Cuban lease agreement. The answer is found in the preceding quotation and in the further fact that the Cable Station is a relay station between New York, Panama and other points, and does not of itself operate for profit on the Reservation.
The Central and South American Cable Company changed its name to All America Cables, Incorporated, on 15 February 1920. On 22 August 1938, it was changed to its present name: All America Cables and Radio, Incorporated.
From the start of the Naval Station the U. S. Army had the mission of defending Guantanamo Bay with coastal fortifications. Consequently the Army was allocated certain areas. By Executive Order of 9 January 1904, the President transferred from the Naval Reservation to the War Department three tracts of land designated as:
(a) Reservation No. 1-Embracing "the west part of Cuzco Hills extending from the Bay to a true north and south line 3545 feet due east from Windward Point lighthouse . . ." (with certain exceptions).
(b) Reservation No. 2-an area on and in the vicinity of Conde Bluff.
(c) Reservation No. 3-"all that land on the west side of the harbor as is included between the ocean, bay, and river, east of a true north and south line three-quarters (3/4) nautical miles west from St. Nicolas Point." (Roughly Leeward Point).
These Army reservations may be found on blueprints located in the Naval Station Public Works Department. All areas have since been returned piecemeal to the Navy Department, one tract in 1912, one in 1928, and the final transfer being completed in May 1940.
As related in another chapter the Army in 1906 built Fort McCalla south of the Cable Station, and in 1907, Fort Conde on Conde Bluff. These forts were never manned as such and were abandoned after a few years. The Navy and Marines assumed the mission of defending Guantanamo Bay, but the War Department retained nominal title to some of the land until the emergency preceding World War II.
Department of Commerce
In 1904 a section of water frontage 100 feet by 55 feet, the present location of the old lighthouse pier on Corinaso Point, was transferred to the Commerce Department. There was constructed on this frontage a pier to be used for the maintenance of aids to navigation at Guantanamo Bay. The Commerce Department had cognizance of lighthouses, lights, and buoys in the Bay until 1939.
In 1939 the Lighthouse Department was transferred from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Treasury. The President, by authority vested in him by the Act of 3 April 1939, effected a transfer of the 100 foot by 55 foot water frontage on Corinaso Point to the Coast Guard by his Reorganization Plan II, dated 9 May 1939. The Coast Guard, in peacetime a part of the Tressury Department, has from this time had charge of the lighthouse, lights, buoys, beacons, and other navigational aide at Guantanamo Bay.
Go to Chapter Ten