Before It’s All Gone: Preserving Jamaica’s Architectural Heritage

Our built heritage is who we are – just as our environmental heritage is. In this post art historian, curator and critic Veerle Poupeye points to several beautiful and neglected buildings that are falling into ruin in downtown Kingston. She also refers to the shocking demolition of a lovely example of domestic architecture in my neighborhood in (once leafy) St. Andrew – once home to a significant art collection. Instead of pulling things down – historic buildings, homes, trees that are many decades older than us – and building anew, why don’t we focus on preserving what we already have, which has far more value than we think?


Cast iron building on Orange Street – photo: Paul Hamilton

This post was first published as a two-part article in the Jamaica Monitor, on May 2 and May 9, respectively. It is published here as it was in the Monitor, but with more images added.

Part 1

A few weeks ago, the Burnett Webster house on Seaview Avenue was demolished to make way for a new commercial complex, developed by First Rock Capital Holdings. A photograph of the demolition generated much outrage on social media. Many felt that the building should have been preserved, given its historical and architectural value, and its potential as a museum and community space like Devon House – the sort of cultural and recreational, green space of which Kingston needs many more.

The house had been built in the 1920s by Burnett Webster, Jamaica’s foremost Art Deco designer and a pioneering figure in modern…

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