Downtown, Kingston Streetscape

The Ward Theatre

The present theatre was erected by James Ward, then custos of Kingston in 1911, however, the theatre has been on its current site since 1775. It was handed over to the city of Kingston in 1912. Its predecessors include the Kingston Theatre (destroyed by fire) and the Theatre Royal which was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake. Funds to construct the present theatre came from James Ward partnership in the company,  J. Wray & Nephew, which brews a wide range of rums. Ward Theatre

Photo 1: Side view of the Ward Theatre

Photos 2-3: ‘Date stone’ found on the building

 

The Ward Theatre has 830 seats and has been pivotal in the development of theatrical activity in Jamaica since 1912.

Touring companies from Europe and America have performed at the Ward. The National Pantomine has been held every December 26 here from 1941 until 2002 when the building had deteriorated so bad, it stopped. The two major political parties PNP and JLP were launched from its stage in 1938 and 1943 respectively.

The Theatre is currently owned by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and was closed in 1982 for repairs.

I visited the theatre during High School to view a performance of Macbeth and the interior of the building though antiquated was still awe-inspiring. Of late a new building has been constructed beside The Ward, The Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre, which opened in 2015. It is located on the corner of North Parade and Church Street. It is a multi-purpose space for the visual and performing arts (hopefully it is not meant to replace The Ward Theatre) and is managed by the Urban Development Commission.

 

Coke Memorial Hall

This brick red structure located right beside Coke Methodist Church is said to have been built in 1840 after same Thomas Coke; precious little is known about it when compared to its neighbour.

Photo 4: Front view of the Coke Memorial Hall

 

 

Coke Memorial Methodist Church

Located on the corner of East Queen Street and Parade, it is constructed on the site of a merchant home and it opened as a place of worship in 1790. It was closed for several years but reopened in 1814. This was a time when authorities were openly against missionary work and ideology especially towards the slaves. The church is said to have an underground tunnel by which slaves entered the building for worship. This tunnel was recorded to have blood splattered walls from slaves who were caught trying to go to worship and killed. The tunnel has since then been filled with concrete to strengthen the foundation of the church.

It was declared a national monument on January 2, 2002.

This church was originally built by in 1840 and named after Dr. Thomas Coke, founder of the Methodist Missions in the West Indies. It was severely damaged by earthquake in 1907 and rebuilt. the  architecture is after the neo-gothic style.

Photo 5: Side view of the Coke Memorial Methodist Church

 

 

Hibbert House/Headquarter House

Headquarters House, the head office of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), is located at 79 Duke Street, Kingston. It was built by Thomas Hibbert, a wealthy young English Merchant, in 1755. Thomas Hibbert arrived in Jamaica in 1734. He came from a wealthy Lancashire family.

Headquarters House, therefore, was built as the dwelling house of Thomas Hibbert, as a result of a wager. The three other rivaling houses, “Constantine House”, on High Hilborn Street, “Bull House” on North Street, and “Harmony Hall” on Hanover Street, have been long since destroyed.

Photo 6: Side view of Hibbert House/Headquarter House

The house is built using the Georgian Style of architecture which had become very fashionable in England in the Eighteenth Century. This style of architecture reached Jamaica as a result of rich merchants like Thomas Hibbert who had settled in Jamaica and built their houses based on the English architectural styles.

The house is symmetrical, constructed of brick, stone and timber. The walls are of flemish bonded red brick with contrasting limestone quoins, which are pronounced on the exterior of the building. The front of the building has been altered, with the addition of beautiful Jamaican Vernacular fretwork which allows for some amount of privacy and yet allows you to enjoy the sea breeze.

The house is a two-storey building with a large basement used for storage, and an attic with dormer windows. The first floor was used as offices and entertainment, while the upper floor was used as bedrooms. To the back of the building are a courtyard and several outhouses.

Inside the house are several interesting features worthy of note. These include the fine brickwork in the basement and the exquisite staircase leading from the ground floor to the first.

Photo 7: Front view of house

 

The temporary removal of the capital of Jamaica from Spanish Town to Kingston in 1754 by Colonel Admiral Charles Knowles, resulted in the House of Assembly and Legislative Council holding meetings at Hibbert House from 1755 – 1758.

It was purchased in 1814 by the War Office of the West Indies Regiment from the widow of Dr. Solomon Deleon, to serve as its headquarters and the residence of the General of the army garrisoned in Jamaica. It consequently became known as Headquarters House or General’s House. During that time Luke O’Connor, Commander in Chief of the Military Forces which put down the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 resided there. Morant Bay Courthouse & Fort

Due to its proximity to the harbour, and the view it commanded of the city the house was ideally located for it to be used as the headquarters for the army. Few adjustments were needed for it to serve this purpose, this included the construction of the crow’s nest or sentinel on the roof of the building.

In 1872, with the permanent removal of the Capital from Spanish Town to Kingston, Headquarters House was purchased by the Government for five thousand pounds (£5000) Sterling. It became the permanent seat of the Jamaica Legislation from 1872 until 1960. Prior to this, it was used as the Offices of Colonial Secretary. Since 1983, Headquarters House has been used as the head office of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

 

 

Be sure to drop a comment below, happy reading!

 

 

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