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Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, was founded in July 1692 when an earthquake destroyed the nearby city of Port Royal. The most recent census puts its population at 937,700. Today Kingston is the center of trade, manufacturing, and shipping for the entire nation of Jamaica.
Before the 1692 earthquake, Port Royal, founded in 1518 by the Spanish on a spit of land off what is now Kingston Harbor, and captured by the English in 1655, was the major city in the area. The earthquake and tsunami killed nearly two thousand of the town’s six thousand people. Most of the survivors moved inland to the other side of the harbor and founded Kingston.
Kingston was the largest town in Jamaica by 1716, and due to its deepwater harbor it was also the center of trade for the entire British colony. In 1775 Sir Charles Knowles, the British governor of the Colony, moved all government offices from nearby Spanish Town to Kingston. Three years later Kingston had a population of 26,478, which included 16,659 enslaved people. Slavery existed in Jamaica until 1833. Kingston was declared the official capital of the Colony of Jamaica in 1872.
In 1907 Kingston was struck by an earthquake that killed over 800 people and destroyed nearly all of the buildings in the center of the city. That quake led to a three-story height restriction on all central business district structures and the requirement that they be built in reinforced concrete.
In 1914, two young Jamaicans, Marcus Garvey and his wife Amy Ashwood Garvey, founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the Kingston Market section of the city. Although Garvey left Jamaica two years later for the United States where he settled in New York, New York, the Kingston-born UNIA eventually became the largest organization in the world composed of people of African ancestry.
By the 1930s Kingston residents formed a trade union movement that eventually became the driving force in the Jamaican independence campaign. In 1948 the city became the site of the Mona Campus of the University of West Indies, the first institution of higher learning in Jamaica.
When independence came in 1962, Kingston remained the capital of the new nation. At the time its population was estimated at 350,000. By that point the height restrictions were lifted and “New Kingston,” a downtown development of high-rise office buildings, became the financial center of the island, while uptown became the site of Parliament and other government buildings.
By the early 1970s reggae music emerged from Trench Town, a Kingston slum that produced singers such as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. The name of the slum came from local residents who described the unpaved streets without sidewalks as trenches. Another Kingston residential section, Tivoli Gardens, became infamous as the scene of a May 27, 2010 massacre by Kingston police and Jamaican soldiers who killed 76 residents while searching for reputed drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke.
Although people of African ancestry are the vast majority of Kingston’s citizens, there are significant minorities of East Indians and Chinese, Syrian, and Lebanese residents. Edward Seaga, a Jamaican of Lebanese descent, served as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989.
Kingston attractions include the Museum of Jamaican Art, Emancipation Park, MandelaPark and the 2,000 acre Hope Royal Botanical Garden. The Bob Marley Museum located in uptown Kingston is the singer’s former residence. The Athletic Track and Field Training Area was the site where world famous athletes such as Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Price trained before winning their Olympic gold medals.
History of Port Antonio
Portland formally became a parish in 1723 by order of the Duke of Portland, who was then Governor of Jamaica and after whom it is named. The existing port was to be called Port Antonio and was slated to become a naval stronghold. To that end, by 1729, the British began to build Fort George on the peninsula separating the twin East and West harbours known as the Titchfield promontory. The fort was intended to protect settlers from attacks by sea (from the Spanish) and from the hills (from the Maroons).
In 1739 the Maroons signed a peace treaty with the British and this led to a new period of development in Portland. Settlers started pouring in, accepting the Governor’s offer of free land and slaves. Many began large scale sugar cultivation. By 1779 there were 38 large.
Birth of the Banana Trade
CAPTAIN LORENZO DOW BAKER (1840 – 1908)
In 1870, at age 30, Captain Baker made his first voyage to the tropics with his newly purchased ship, “Telegraph”. His cargo was mining equipment for Venezuela. On his return, he picked up a cargo of bamboo in Jamaica, where he tasted his first banana. He decided to introduce the exotic fruit to northern markets and he included some bunches in his cargo. However, upon arrival in New York City, the bananas were spoiled and could not be sold. Captain Baker was not deterred. The next year, he returned to Jamaica and loaded his ship with unripe (green) bananas. This time the bananas were just ripe enough when he docked in New York to earn a substantial profit.
Baker established an office in Port Antonio and began to make an average of 5 trips a year and eventually, in 1881, moved his wife and 4 children to Jamaica. He and his family spent most of the year in Jamaica and lived in Wellfleet during the summer and early fall.
He formed the Boston Fruit Company by buying out smaller concerns. Small farmers began to buy and rent land all over the parish to plant banana. His company, through many mergers and acquisitions, made possible the giant conglomerate Chiquita brands.
Baker expanded by buying estates (including Bog, near Port Antonio and Bowden in Port Morant), more ships and building piers. He soon faced increased competition, especially from the Keith and Lindo families who were engaged in a thriving fruit trade from Costa Rica to New York. In 1885, after buying out some of his competitors (including the Keith interests) his enterprise became known as the United Fruit Company. By 1902 Baker controlled the entire island’s banana trade (St. Mary had also emerged as a major producer of bananas) and he went on to supply fruit all along the east coast of the United States and later, New Orleans, Montreal and London. Regular exports to Britain had begun in 1901 with Sir Alfred Jones’s Imperial Direct Steam Line (which included refrigerated machinery) employed to the United Fruit Company and later bought out by them. Some 650 tonnes of banana were shipped to the UK each month.
As Baker’s trade grew, Port Antonio became the second most important town in Jamaica. Most of his workers lived in Portland. Those who did not grow bananas, reaped them or loaded them onto ships, earning some 70 cents per day. Money was new to the people of Portland and it is said that some became so rich that they used five-pound notes to light their cigarettes. Knowledge of saving was sadly lacking.
A natural entrepreneur, Baker began to use his steamships to carry tourists as well as bananas. For a long time his ships were the only form of travel between Jamaica and other countries. Guesthouses built for his workers and officers were also used to house these early Portland visitors. As the trip to Jamaica increased in popularity, Baker built the magnificent Titchfield Hotel on Titchfield Hill in the early 1900s and soon the streets of Port Antonio were filled with tourists, giving Portland claim to the title of “birthplace of Jamaican tourism.”
In addition to the Titchfield which was only open during the winter season, Baker also owned a hotel back home in Wellfleet called the Chequessett which was only open during the summer season. Baker often used the same staff in both locations, thus providing year around employment for many persons both in Jamaica and Wellfleet.
In 1905 the Titchfield hotel boasted 600 feet of piazza and 400 rooms. It was said that “no other hotel this side of the Atlantic provided as many conveniences that minister to the pleasure of travellers as the Titchfield.” It became known for its afternoon tea on the piazza and bathing in bath houses.
another of Titchfield Hotel’s great claims to fame is that it was once owned by famous Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn who died before he could execute on any of his plans to develop the hotel. In the late 1960s the hotel was destroyed by fire and today only the ruins of this great landmark still stand.
During this time, Captain Baker made every effort to improve the living conditions of citizens in both Jamaica and Wellfleet. He believed that his financial success was only a fulfillment of God’s will and that it was his duty and obligation to help those who lived in his winter and summer hometowns. In Jamaica, he built a hospital and many schools; paid decent wages and provided better living conditions for his local workers and their families. In Wellfleet, he helped rebuild the Methodist Church when it was struck by lightning and burned in 1891. You can visit the present-day Methodist Church on Main Street to see stained glass windows and a magnificent pipe organ donated by Captain Baker and his family.
Ocho Rios (Spanish for “Eight Rivers”) is a town in the parish of Saint Ann on the north coast of Jamaica. Just outside the city, travelers and residents can visit Columbus Park, where Columbus supposedly first came on land, and see maritime artifacts and Spanish colonial buildings.
It was once a fishing village but now caters to tourists. It is a port of call for cruise ships as well as for cargo ships loading sugar, limestone, and in the past, bauxite. Scuba diving and other water sports are offered in the town’s vicinity.
The name “Ocho Rios” is a misnomer because there are no eight rivers in the area. It is most likely a British corruption of the original Spanish name “Las Chorreras” (“the waterfalls”), a name given to the village because of the nearby Dunn’s River Falls.
The north coast highway from the international airport at Montego Bay to Ocho Rios has been improved since 2000 and the journey is now an hour and forty five minutes’ drive. On 26 August 2011, the Jamaican government announced a $21 million revitalization plan for the resort area.
The town has restaurants, nightclubs in Margaritaville and Dolphin Cove, where tourists swim and interact with dolphins.
It is perhaps most notable for its use in Dr. No, the very first James Bond film, which was released in 1962. It was the home of Miss Taro, played by Zena Marshall, who was an adversary of Bond (Sean Connery) and in alliance with the main villain Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman).
It also appears as the primary location for the horror sequel Piranha II: The Spawning, many of the scenes being photographed at the Mallards Beach-Hyatt, now the Sunset Jamaica Grande.
In 2016, the Rio Chico resort just outside of Ocho Rios was featured on the 20th season of ABC’s reality TV show The Bachelor.
Ocho Rios is the name of the sixth track on the album Sounding out the City by El Michels Affair and was also featured in the 10cc song “From Rochdale to Ocho Rios”.
- Excellent value for money
- Family friendly
- Private tour is operated with just your party and a guide/driver
- Multi-Day Trip
- Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
- Departure Time: Coincides with the arrival time of your flight into Kingston International Airport
- Departure: Departs from the Kingston International Airport (KIN)
- Confirmation will be received at time of booking
- A minimum of 2 people per booking is required
- Children must be accompanied by an adult
- Five Nights/ Six Days Accommodation (3-4 Star Hotels/Villas)
- Private Arrival and Departure Airport Transfers
- Three Days of Private Tours/Experiences
- Four Breakfasts (Continental)
- Dedicated Private Vehicle
- English Speaking Driver/Guide
- Food and Drinks (Lunch and Dinner)
- Concludes at the Kingston International Airport (KIN)
- Hotel for pick up
- Weights for helicopter tours
- Choice of times for tours
- Special dietary requirements, meal choices etc.
6-Day Private Tour of Jamaica from Kingston