Coke Methodist Church, located at the corner of East Queen Street and Parade, has a rich, colourful history.
The foundations of the church were laid on the site of a merchant’s home. It was purchased for £1,200 and remodeled. It was opened as a place of worship in 1790.
The chapel opened during a time of blatant hostility towards missionary activity. Attempts were made to destroy the building and newspaper writers slanderously attacked the ministers.
The church remained closed for seven years, but when it was reopened in 1814 the membership had increased from 600 to 1700.
The increase in membership was credited to one Mary Wilkinson, a Methodist from Manchioneal, Portland who fled the authorities there after going around encouraging slaves to get married. She would perform the ceremony herself without a license when there was no minister available to do the deed.
A minister of the church has put on record the discovery of an underground tunnel beneath the church which is alleged to have been used by slaves as a means of entering the building for worship.
The authorities are said to have ambushed a group on one occasion, killing them on the spot. Up until the late 1970s, blood-stained walls in this tunnel were attributed to this tale.
Later, the church authorities filled this tunnel with concrete to strengthen the foundation of the building. Coke Methodist Church was declared a national monument on January 2, 2002.
This Church was severely damaged in the 1907 earthquake and the present building dates from that time. It was rebuilt in the basic neo-Gothic style of the original Church.
Port Royal was once called “the richest and wickedest city in the world”. Renowned mostly for its connection to pirates, Port Royal’s legacy stretches back to Jamaica’s indigenous inhabitants, the Tainos.
Port Royal was first used by the Tainos as a fishing camp. When the Spaniards arrived in Jamaica, they used the sand spit for cleaning, refitting and caulking of their sailing vessels.
When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, immediately realising its strategic importance, they started to put fortifications in place.
During the 17th century, it was the virtual capital of Jamaica, and also a headquarters for buccaneers and pirates who brought in much of the treasure they looted on the Spanish Main. Chief among the buccaneers was Henry Morgan who sacked Camaguey, Port Bello, Maracaibo and Panama. Morgan was later knighted and made Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. He died at Port Royal in 1688.
By 1692 Port Royal had become an important economic centre, but on June 7, of that year, it was destroyed by an earthquake. A large portion of the town sank into the sea; while about two fifth of the population-died either in the earthquake or in the plagues and pestilences that followed.
Almost immediately the houses and fortifications were rebuilt on what by then was an island separated from the rest of the Palisades, but in 1703 a fire destroyed the entire town which had been rebuilt mainly of wood. Hurricanes in 1712, 1722 and 1726 ensured that Port Royal would never again rise to its former glory, as all the merchants shifted across the harbour to settle in Kingston, a less healthy, but safer site than Port Royal.
Fort Charles, Port Royal
The first fort to be erected in Port Royal was Fort Charles. It was built in the late 1650-60 and was originally called Fort Cromwell but was renamed Fort Charles.
The fort underwent several changes between 1656-1670. In 1667, the fort had 36 guns and by 1765 it had 104 guns and a garrison with 500 men.
Giddy House, Port Royal
This lopsided building is called “the Giddy House”. It was built in 1888 and was the old Royal Artillery Store for the Victoria Battery.
The Earthquake of 1907 shifted it to its present 45 degree angle. On entering the building, people often feel a strange sensation of being giddy or off balance, caused by the building’s tilt-hence its name-the Giddy House.
Plumb Point Lighthouse
Plumb Point Lighthouse was built in 1853 – eleven years after the construction of the Morant point Lighthouse. It stands on the Palisadoes Peninsula at Great Plumb Point near the entrance of the Kingston Harbour. The Tower which stands at 70 feet is built of stone and cast iron. The light of the Tower flashes a white light of ½ seconds duration followed by 7½ seconds of darkness. The light is visible as far as twenty-five (25) miles. The position of the Lighthouse is latitude 170 56′ north and longitude 760 47’&30″ west.
National Heroes Park
The area on which the National Heroes Park now stands was once one of the most popular spots in Kingston. For 101 years, the land was the centre for horse racing in Jamaica. It was also the site for other sporting activities such as cricket and cycle racing. Being a place where people naturally gathered, the area was also the venue for travelling circuses that visited the island from time to time.
In 1818, the Kingston Council purchased the property for £985 and 10 shillings. Back then it was part of a property called Montgomery Pen. It was later known as the Kingston Race Course because of its dominant activity and remained so until 1953 when horse racing was transferred to Knutsford Park.
The site was officially renamed the National Heroes Park in 1973 and is now a permanent place for honouring our heroes whose monuments are erected in an area known as the Shrine.
Another section, reserved for prime ministers and outstanding patriots, adjoins the Shrine area, to the north.
The Ward Theatre was built in 1912 by Charles James Ward, Custos of Kingston, who presented it to the Mayor and Council of the City of Kingston on December 16 of the same year. Charles James Ward is the “nephew” in the company J.Wray and Nephew which provided the enabling funds. It is the third Theatre to stand on the same site since 1775. The first was the Kingston Theatre which was destroyed by fire and the second was the Theatre Royal which was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake.
In 1982 the owners, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, closed the Theatre for structural repairs. In 1986 the Ward Theatre Foundation was formed and a lease agreement signed with the Corporation to operate and manage the Theatre for twenty-five years. Since that time the Foundation has raised funds, primarily from private sector companies, to carry out an ongoing refurbishing programme.
The facilities are used for all aspects of the performing arts and civic events.
The Theatre has 830 seats. Over 100,000 persons attend the Ward Theatre annually, that is to say, one out of every twenty-six persons in Jamaica.
Local theatre production began in earnest in the 1990’s and the Ward has been the major centre for the development of all Jamaican theatrical activity since 1912. From 1941 the National Pantomime opened there every Boxing Day, December 26, except in 1950 when the theatre was closed for repairs. The Pantomime has stopped playing at the Ward since 2002 because of the poor state of the facility and the surroundings. The Theatre has provided a setting for civic events such as state visits and national celebrations and both major political parties were launched on its stage – the PNP in 1938 and the JLP in 1943.
The greatest personalities in Jamaican theatre and world famous celebrities have performed on its stage. The Ward Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of Jamaicans probably because of its association with the development of indigenous theatre.
Throughout the years touring companies from Europe and the Americas have performed at the Ward.
Many international stars have performed there: among them Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Charles Laughton, Arthur Rubinstein and Jamaica’s own Willard White.
Famous groups have included the Australian National Ballet, the European Community Chamber Orchestra, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Garth Fagan Dance Company and the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC).
The Ward Theatre stands as a Jamaican landmark and a showcase for the nation’s culture.
(Ward Foundation website: http://www.wardtheatrefoundation.com/about.php)
The origin of the Rock Fort Spa is uncertain, but it is believed to have appeared miraculously following the 1907 earthquake. The water which is very radioactive, is piped from a cold spring in the surrounding hills.
The spa which is operated commercially has several bathhouses, supplied with warm water, and a large swimming pool.
Like the other mineral spas, Rock Fort Mineral Spa is believed to have healing properties.
Gordon House is a two storey contemporary building with a distinct symmetrical design at its entrance elevation. The building is of an ‘L’ shaped design with an open courtyard for parking concealed from the adjoining roads.
On Wednesday, October 26, 1960, Gordon House became the official meeting place of the Jamaican Government replacing Headquarters House, which was the meeting place of the government since 1872. The building was named in honour of National Hero, the Rt. Excellent George William Gordon who supported freedom and justice for all classes in the society. This helped to pave the way for much of the advances in self-government and democracy in Jamaica in the twentieth century.
As an elected member of the House of Assembly in the 1850s, George William Gordon became a leading promoter of the interest of the newly emancipated black peasants. The peasants formed the majority of the Jamaican population, but because of ethnic and historical barriers connected with slavery, most of them were poverty-stricken and marginalized by the political system. Slavery ended in 1838, but the peasants as a group was still forced to live as social outcasts, and Gordon himself a coloured, embraced their plight.
Gordon’s concern for the troubles of the underprivileged was the driving force behind his campaign for reforms in the political directorate. Gordon House is aptly named in honour of the man who was one of the frontrunners of the social and political development of Jamaica.
Heritage Sites by Parish