When the Dutch conquered Curaçao in 1634 from the Spanish, the lagoon west of Caracasbaai – the current Jan Thiel area - was one of the island’s main salt lakes. At the end of the 17th century the plantation Damasco or Damascus developed between the Caracasbaai and the lagoon. Located at the lagoon, the plantation Damasco became one of the island’s main salt plantations. The area is named after its first known owner, Jan Thielen. The plantation remained the property of Jan Thielen’s family from the turn of the century until 1735. After that the plantation has been in the hands of many different owners until 1915. In that year it was sold to the family Perret Gentil. After a few decades this family started parceling out the Eastern part of the plantation. In 1979 Damascus was sold to the APNA (the local pension fund).
During the 18th century the plantation was very prosperous. Apart from the salt production, there were farming and stockbreeding activities. The agricultural products included corn, cotton, grass and indigo. The livestock consisted of goats and sheep, chickens, turkeys and doves, cows, horses and donkeys. The work on the land was done by about 40 slaves. In the course of the nineteenth century there was a dip in the produce and worth of the plantation. This was due to periods of draught and the generally poor economical situation of the island.
In the 20th century Caspar Arturo Perret Gentil, a dedicated planter, brought the plantation to an exceptional level of prosperity, operating on a larger scale and making the most of the plantation’s possibilities. The plantation then included an orangerie with over 300 trees, where he cultivated laraha oranges for their peels. The orange peels were exported to France for the production of liqueur and perfume. Perret Gentil did not grow any corn himself. Instead he allowed various persons to cultivate corn on parcels of his land. The corn stems which he received in return for this favor, were fed to the cattle. The livestock at some moment even included 453 cows and 1000 goats. Their milk was distributed to a fixed group of customers. Perret Gentil considerably increased salt production, by the construction of a number of new salt pans. The salt was of a remarkably good quality, suitable for human consumption. By allowing the sea ships (schooners) to the entrance to the lagoon, he avoided having to transport the salt via town. The salt sacks were transported to the schooners by small boats, after which the salt could be sailed away immediately.
Casper Perret Gentil, besides being a dedicated planter, was an excellent business man. He also ran a funeral company, for which he used his horses. And he was the first one to start exploiting the recreational possibilities of the Jan Thiel beach, which he developed into a seaside resort in the nineteen twenties. Since that period, the Jan Thiel area has continued its development, becoming the popular residential and recreational area it is now.