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Kingston | Jamaica Capital City
15 Interesting Historical Facts
Jamaica Capital City |Kingston Port
With 669,773 persons living here, or 24.56% of the population of Jamaica (at at December 2018), Kingston Metropolitan area, prides itself as the largest predominately English-Speaking city south of the United Sates of America in the Americas.
But how much do you know of its rich history? Follow me now as I share 15 interesting historical facts about Kingston, Jamaica.
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- Kingston, then an exclusively agricultural town, was sectioned out and became a refuge for the survivors of the massive June 7th, 1692 earthquake in Port Royal.
It was designated the island’s capital later the same year (July 22 1692).
- The area bounded by Harbour Street, North Street, East Street and West Street was the first settlement, part of the parish of St Andrew known as Colonel Barry’s hog crawle from the use to which it was put.
- The island was without a governor or lieutenant governor at the time of the earthquake and it was the council (an advisory body to the governor) that took the decision to go across the harbour from the stricken city of Port Royal and purchase 80 ha owned by Colonel William Beeston (then absent from the island) to found a new town.
The plan of the town was drawn up by John Goffe, a surveyor, and lots were sold.
- The first known resident of Kingston was a woman, Mrs Ann Louder. It was at her house in 1693 that lots were drawn in order for the council to decide on assigning land to the original settlers.
- Port Royal Street was not part of the original town since the sea came up to Harbour Street which was therefore most desirable as a shipping point.
But the sea kept on depositing mud and debris south of Harbour Street, and Beeston, who had returned as lieutenant governor, got hold of the land.
Much to the anger of those on Harbour Street, in the early 18th century a new street named Port Royal Street, was laid out on it and lots were sold.
- The streets within the original area of Kingston were laid out in a grid pattern that remains the same today except for the additions of Kirk Avenue off Church Street and St George’s Avenue off Duke Street.
- Most of the early streets were named after the men who were councilors at the time of the founding of the town. In the midst of these streets, an open square was left as the Parade.
- Early settlement was confined to the area below Parade. The west was near the swamps and regarded as unhealthy and was therefore the least desirable area.
The most popular streets among the early settlers were Church, Harbour, and Orange Streets and those around the Parade. Here the settlers lived upstairs their business places. Behind these houses were the 'yards' where slaves and poor people lived.
- The original properties and residences of the wealthy in Kingston were called PENS, since the owner kept his horses and probably some other livestock there.
As the city expanded these were further cut up but retained the PEN names with them, eg. Greenwich Pen or Delacree Pen.
The newer settlements were called Towns. The first of these were Hannah Town and Rae Town, both named after the wealthy merchants who had lookout towers on the roof equipped with a spyglass from which the merchant could check on the movement of ships.
- In the early 18th century, Kingston was the key trans-shipment port for goods from England to the Spanish colonies of Latin America.
The ‘goods’ unfortunately included people. Britain had acquired the contract to supply slaves to the Spanish colonies, and after the human cargoes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa, they were kept in warehouses on the Kingston waterfront until they were re-shipped.
This continued until 1807 When the slave trade was abolished by the British.
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- In 1907 a large part of the downtown area was destroyed by an earthquake and fire, and virtually all the buildings south of Parade date from that time.
After this disaster, public land was acquired on both sides of King Street and the public buildings there laid out.
- The Kingston Harbour, considered one of the finest anchorages, is the seventh largest harbour in the world.
- Kingston’s greatest period of prosperity was during the Napoleonic Wars when trade with the Spanish colonies greatly increased.
- Kingston now has has several sister cities including Guadalajara in Mexico, Shenzhen in China, Coventry In England and Miami in the USA.
- Kingston is Jamaica's smallest parish with an area of just 22.7km2.
For more on Kingston, including landmark and attractions, click here.
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- "Parish Profile: Kingston", https://jis.gov.jm/information/parish-profiles/parish-profile-kingston/
- "Kingston, Jamaica", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston,_Jamaica
- "Five Things You Didn’t Know About Kingston, Jamaica", https://www.caribjournal.com/2016/07/16/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-kingston-jamaica/
- Senior, Olive, "Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage"
- "10 Interesting Facts about Kingston", http://jamaicapage.com/10-interesting-facts-about-kingston/
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A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.
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