Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Walking Tour of Historic Falmouth, Jamaica

Founded in 1769 mid-way between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Falmouth prospered from Jamaica’s status as the world’s leading sugar producer. With more than 80 sugar estates nearby, the town was meticulously mapped out according to Colonial tradition in a grid plan, with streets named after British royalty and heroes. The richness of historic Georgian architectural buildings, which are still occupied and maintained, reflect the town’s heritage. Established in Falmouth in 1799, the first piped water supply system in the Western Hemisphere continues to be a source of pride.

The leisurely paced Falmouth Heritage Walk I joined with passengers from Allure of the Seas took us through Falmouth’s commercial and residential streets while the guide shared the little known history of the town and what made it a rich and significant port in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Points of interest included Falmouth Courthouse and the adjacent Cenotaph war memorial (pictured above left); Water Square, where Falmouth residents got running water before New York City (pictured below right); Barrett House Ruins, the remains of the town home of planter William Barrett who owned much of the land upon which the town is built; and Fort Balcarres, built to guard Falmouth Harbor. Mid-way through the tour a comfort break was taken at St. Peter’s Anglican Church where our guide distributed icy bottles of water.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century Falmouth was the birthplace of Jamaica’s abolition slavery movement. The site of many revolts, scores of the town’s buildings served as safe houses for escaped slaves until the practice of slavery was outlawed in 1838. Our guide explained how the movement to abolish slavery was essentially founded in Falmouth when we visited the former home and grave of the famous abolitionist William Knibb.

Other sights included fine examples of Falmouth’s Georgian era architecture. Based on classic Greek and Roman designs and adapted to local conditions to create a unique island style, Georgian buildings are recognizable by their double hung sash windows, keystones, columns, symmetry of facade, and some with full length verandahs. Constructed of a native limestone material over brick and remarkably preserved, most structures are still in use as either private residences or commercial buildings. While Falmouth is seeing a revival with the recent opening of the cruise port, buildings that may seem unimpressive as they undergo restoration are rich in history. The Jamaican government declared Falmouth a National Monument in 1966. In some instances it’s difficult to distinguish old construction from new as current structures are being built to mimic the Georgian style.

Our walking tour concluded back at the cruise port after visiting the classic Georgian home of Ms. Anne Hyatt (pictured left), who not only invited us to enjoy the breeze in her shaded garden, but also took us inside for a look at every day life in Falmouth. Like most of us, Ms. Hyatt keeps in touch via the Internet. I found we had a lot in common as we are both cat lovers and she works closely with her local pet rescue society.

While Falmouth’s streets are easily explored on your own, finding your way around can be confusing even with a map, due to a lack of street signs. Should you become disoriented or require directions, look for a member of the Falmouth Tourism Courtesy Corps wearing official white shirts and hats. They are on hand to assist visitors and can help with finding a taxi outside the cruise port. Another way to get around town to see the sights is the Falmouth tourist trolley, which stops at points of interest. Tickets and trolley schedules are available in the Cruise Port.

Cruise Diva wishes to extend her appreciation to Jerron Britton and Sharon Williams of the Jamaica Tourist Board, William Tatham of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Carl Hendricks of the Port of Falmouth, and Marina Delfos of Falmouth Heritage Walks for their hospitality and assistance during her day in Falmouth.

Photos © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com


Filip Demuinck said...

Looks a bit like Grand Cayman

Linda Coffman, AKA Cruise Diva said...

Many of the private homes reminded me a lot of Key West in style. I hope they are able to continue their renovations and don't lose any more of the historic structures to "progress."