Jamaica. An island of sun, sea, and sand, but one that is also steeped in rich history. From little-known stories of black wealth to victorious slave revolts during the colonial era, there are many historic sites in Jamacia that offer an insightful look into its past and how these events helped to shape present-day. And so during your next visit to the largest English speaking island in the Caribbean, here are seven historic sites in Jamaica to check out.
1. Devon House
Address: 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. 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.
2. Firefly Estate
Address: Firefly Estate, Port Maria, Jamaica
Once the vacation home of the late playwright Noel Coward, Firefly Estate is the place where he entertained many noted aristocrats. The impressive guest list included Queen Elizabeth II, Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Burton. A National Heritage Site, the Firefly Estate is well maintained to reflect the state of the house and grounds when it welcomed the Queen’s Mother for lunch in 1965. The Firefly house is also Noel Coward’s final resting place.
3. Seville Heritage Park
Address: Seville Heritage Park, St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica
The Seville Heritage Park holds an important spot in Jamaican history, as the place where Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus first encountered the indigenous Taino Indians in 1494. Today, the former plantation’s Great House offers an insightful look into different periods of history when the Taino Indians, Spanish, English, and African inhabited the area. The Seville Heritage Park is also the site of an annual culture party held on Emancipation Day, observed on August 1st, which features many traditional foods and activities.
4. The Blue and Johncrow Mountains
Address: 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.
5. The Rosehall Great House
Address: The Rosehall Great House, Rose Hall Road, Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica
The infamous Rose Hall Great House is an old plantation house that is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of its former mistress, Annie Palmer, dubbed the White Witch of Rose Hall. The 6,600-acre property is known less for its magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea and more for the reported atrocities that took place there. Legend has it that Palmer was a black widow of sorts, whose three husbands died mysteriously at her hands. Palmer is also said to have tortured many slaves, one of whom eventually killed her. Some past visitors claimed to have experienced an uneasy feeling or even glimpsed her ghost during a tour of the mansion.
6. Port Royal
Address: 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.
Address: Accompong Village, Santa Cruz, Jamaica
Accompong is the home of the Maroon people of Jamaica, and the little-known story of rebel slaves who fought for and won their freedom. Those living in Accompong are present-day descendants of the rebel slaves who forced the British colonizers to sign a peace treaty and give them self-governance. Located in the Cockpit Country, Accompong was founded in 1739 when the rebels established a stronghold from which they raged a relentless war on the British forces. Led by the Maroon fighter Cudjoe, they were eventually granted full autonomy and 1500 acres of land to establish their own state, which the government of Jamaica still recognizes today. Every year in January, the Maroons hold a special celebration to commemorate the signing of the peace treaty.
Historic sites in Jamaica: Kindah Tree of Accompong near where the Maroons signed their treaty with the British in 1739. Photo Credit: © Angra via Wikimedia Commons.