Historic Towns

In this section, find excerpts and links to The Gleaner's Special Series: Pieces Of The Past authored by Dr. Rebecca Tortello in 2003.  Where applicable, updated information can be found throughout the site.




It has been said that geography is nine-tenths destiny and that is certainly the case in the Caribbean. Historically these islands were alternately pawns of war over territory and sugar producing components that oiled the wheels of English mercantilism. From as early as the 1700s the British King called Jamaica "the gem in my crown." Jamaica's forts, which began to be erected soon after the English conquest in 1655, were a direct result of the need to … (READ MORE)



Three hundred and nine years ago on this day, somewhere between 11:15 a.m. and noon (reports differ as to the actual time, although in the 1950s, in an archaeological first, divers are said to have found a watch which X-ray photography revealed to have stopped at 11.43 a.m.), the ground opened up in different places simultaneously, swallowing bodies and buildings alike…(READ MORE)


I was running, running all out across the square, my arms pumping in short jabbing strokes at my side, dodging the people milling around in the late morning foot traffic of the city. The red-brick shoulders of Fort Charles rose like a dinosaur in the distance…(READ MORE)




It can be said that the city of Kingston was founded first out of disaster and then out of trickery. In 1692 when a massive earthquake destroyed Port Royal, long the seat of the island's trade and a large residential area, the land across the harbour known as the Liguanea Plain after the giant iguana, began to look … (READ MORE)



Set back from the main road and nestled behind majestic trees is eye-catching, regal splendour of the Devon House mansion. An outstanding tribute to Jamaican craftsmanship, Devon House stands a proud symbol of Jamaica's past and its history is compelling. In the late 19th century the corner of Trafalgar and Hope Roads was known as Millionaire's Corner. There, three of the island's richest men had … (READ MORE)


Standing majestically in North Parade, painted a cool powder blue that beckons the eye no matter the angle of approach, the Ward Theatre is a national icon. A testament to Jamaican architecture and philanthropy, the Theatre was a gift of …(READ MORE)







It has been said that Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country in the world. The number of places of worship in Kingston alone certainly supports that theory. As the capital and one of the island's oldest cities, Kingston probably has the oldest and widest variety of religious institutions of different denominations, including not only different Christian faiths but Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Many of them are… (READ MORE)


Together they span the 17th to the 20th century and they represent not only different Christian faiths but Judaism, Taoism and Hinduism.  Kingston's, and indeed all of the island's places of worship, are important for the part they have played in Jamaica's social history, serving as a cornerstone in many cases of the education system, as meeting places for people from different social strata, and as modes of advancement for Jamaican men and women. They are also testimony to the island's… (READ MORE)


As quiet and unassuming as the Gibraltar Camp Road section of the UWI campus is today, 60 years ago it was anything but. The site of an evacuation camp for some 1,500 Gibraltarians (hence its name), an army base, and later an internment camp, the land was covered by row after row of… (READ MORE)




Spanish Town, however, was a good choice for a capital because for the first time since arriving in Jamaica the Spanish chose a site where the land was good for farming.  Spanish Town`s proximity to the Rio Cobre was considered important in terms of health, and its closeness to a major waterway, the Kingston Harbour, important in terms of safety. The town`s inland location meant an added level security against marauding invaders… (READ MORE)




In the late 18th to early 19th century Falmouth boomed, becoming one of the busiest towns in Jamaica. It is said to have been the "wealthiest New World port south of Charleston, South Carolina" (Kritzler, 2003, p. 115). Exports of sugar and rum came to Falmouth from over 88 properties worked by close to 30,000 slaves. Falmouth's busy harbour was guarded by Fort Balcarres (which in 1802 was moved from the centre of town and relocated by the sea. It is now the Falmouth All Age School). Falmouth boasted… (READ MORE)






In the 1940s and 50s, the parish of Portland, and in particular the town of Port Antonio, was the setting of numerous Hollywood films and a favourite destination of many Hollywood stars including Errol Flynn, (who called Port Antonio heaven on earth and once owned nearby Navy Island after winning it in a game of poker, craps or dominoes) Clara Bow, Rudyard Kipling and Ginger Rogers. It is said that Errol Flynn was so in love with the area he … (READ MORE)