A Glimpse of Jamaica's History Through the Ages in its Heritage Sites
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Jamaica Attractions, Jamaican Culture, Jamaican History, Jamaican People, Jamaican Lifestyle, Jamaican Heritage, Famous Jamaicans
Our Jamaican heritage is a patchwork of different cultures that have influenced the nation over several eras. In Jamaica, one can find little-known stories of black wealth to victorious slave revolts during the colonial era. There are many historical sites in Jamaica that offer an insightful look into its past and how these events helped to shape present-day Jamaica.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust has been entrusted with the task of ensuring that physical structures that attest to landmark events in our nation's history are protected and available to this generation and those to come. Here is a selection of seven national heritage sites in Jamaica to visit:
1. 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.
2. Milk River Spa
Milk River, Clarendon
Milk River Bath is not only another of Jamaica’s great spas, but is counted among the best natural spas in the world. The radioactivity of the water is many times greater than many of the world’s famous spas. The relative radioactivity of the water has been found to be:
• 9 times as active as Bath, England • 50 times as active as Vichy, France • 5 times as active as Karlsbad, Austria • 54 times as active as Baden, Switzerland
The Spa is located about ten (10) miles south of May Pen, Clarendon, and is open to the public.
3. Devon House
26 Hope Rd, Kingston, Jamaica
Built in 1891, the majestic Devon House is the former home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel. In those times, the Georgian-style great house and 19th-century antique furnishings were a rare symbol of black wealth.
Having gained his wealth from gold mining in South America, Stiebel was among three wealthy Jamaicans who constructed elaborate homes during the late 19th century at the corner of Trafalgar Road and Hope Road. This corner fittingly became known as the Millionaire’s Corner.
The Mansion overlooks a vast expanse of perfectly manicured and lush, green lawns. Stiebel’s legacy lives on with the beautifully maintained Devon House, which was declared a national monument in 1990 by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. This was done under the instructions of the Rt. Hon. Edward Seaga, who was then Minister of Development and Welfare with responsibility for cultural affairs, and later Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Devon House has since evolved from being home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, to being synonymous with fun, family entertainment and recreation in Kingston, where guests can tour, shop, dine and relax. Today, the property spans 11 acres and is the home of the world famous Devon House ice cream, which was named by the National Geographic as among the top ten ice creams in the world.
4. Negril Point Lighthouse
This Lighthouse is situated at south Negril Point which is at the extreme western end of the Island. The concrete Tower which is painted white, stands 66 feet above ground level and the light is elevated 100 feet above sea level. The Lighthouse has an automatic white light which flashes every two seconds.
The Negril Lighthouse was built in 1894 by the French Company Bubbler & Bernard, on a tank 14 feet deep, which is kept filled with water. This is to keep the Tower balanced and secured in the event of an earthquake. The Tower which is built inland, is cylindrical and has an elaborate light enclosed in a metal and glass protector on top of which is a wind-wane.
Initially, the Lighthouse was operated by a gas lamp, but in 1956 it was replaced by an acetylene gas lamp. This was used until 1985 when it was replaced by solar energy.
Several adjacent one-story frame keeper's houses are staffed.
The site is a well-known attraction of the Negril area.
The Lighthouse is located at latitude 18º 15′ north and longitude 78º 23′ west.
5. The Blue and Johncrow Mountains
Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, County of Surrey, Eastern Jamaica
The Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning about 200,000 acres of tropical rain-forest. Located in the island’s hilly interior, the area stretches through the mountain slopes of four parishes – St. Andrew, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary. These mountains are home to more than 800 species of endemic plants, the world’s second largest butterfly and 200 species of resident and migrant birds.
The peak of the Blue Mountain sits at a majestic 2,256 meters (7,402 feet). It is dramatic as it is possible to view the sea from the top (and from several points on the hike up there). This elevation has a dramatic effect on the climate which is usually several degrees cooler and much damper than at sea level. So, it is possible to leave Kingston or the coast wearing shorts, and needing a coat, cap and umbrella long before the summit. Regardless of fitness levels, there is something for everyone in the Blue Mountains, and indeed everyone should make time to visit this area of outstanding natural beauty.
The Blue Mountains is considered both a hiker’s and a camper’s paradise because of its’ magnificent scenery and tons of fun-filled activities available. There are even a few hostels and inns nestled in the hills that cater to hikers and campers who want to stay overnight or rest. The Blue Mountains is also home to the world-famous Blue Mountain Coffee Estate which guests can tour.
6. Port Royal
Port Royal, Palisadoes, Kingston, Jamaica
Once a haven for swashbuckling pirates, much of Port Royal has been buried beneath the sea since 1692 when a massive earthquake and tidal wave engulfed the city. Infamous buccaneers Henry Morgan and Calico Jack are said to have lived in Port Royal at the time when it was known as the “wickedest city on earth”.
Now a National Heritage Site, Port Royal still has the old Fort Charles with the canons that pirates used to guard the city and plunder passing ships. Visitors can also see the Giddy House, a former artillery store for the fort which was shifted to a precarious slant during another powerful earthquake in 1907. The water off the coast of Port Royal is believed to host an archaeological minefield, including a sunken pirate ship yet to be explored.
7. Nine Mile
Nine Mile, St. Ann
Nine Mile is the birthplace and final resting place of Robert Nesta Marley, more commonly known as Bob Marley. Bob Marley was born in a small cottage in the rural village of Nine Mile and lived here until he was 13 years old. His house and community gave Bob the inspiration for many of his well-known songs.
A visit to Bob Marley's home at Nine Mile includes a tour of the property fro