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Kingston History, Jamaica

Kingston is the largest city in Jamaica and its capital, in the islands of West Indies. The population of Kingston is about 700,000, nearly one third of the population of Jamaica. Kingston is a colorful city with lot of contrasts. The glaring differences in the makeup of the city are due to the long and fiery history of the city. You could find sidewalk vendors conducting their business just outside ostentatious and modern shopping malls, hovels existing side by side with high rise complexes, and the plains in sharp contrast to the scenic hills. These dissimilarities lend the charm to Kingston. 

Kingston History 

Kingston’s past extends to 1692, when the survivors of the devastating earthquake that destroyed Port Royal, arrived as refugees here. At that time, more than 2,000 people died in Port Royal and nearly two thirds of the city plunged into the sea. The initial migrants set up camp in what is known as the hog craw of Colonel Barry, shortly called as Barry’s. The government bought 200 acres of land from Sir William Beeston, an absentee proprietor. At the outset, each person was allotted only a single lot along the seafront by the government.

The government also passed an order that the ferry charges from the sunken city of Port Royal and the mainland should not be exorbitant but should be reasonable. The absentee landowner, Sir William Beeston came to the island as its governor. He found out that the sale of the 200 acres of land to the Jamaican government was not legal. He forced the settlers to purchase the lots individually again from him. He acquired the shoal water across the Harbor Street by dubious methods and enhanced the value of his holdings enormously. However, his shady and fraudulent dealings were exposed and a public uproar led to the birth of Kingston. This birth from a government scandal would witness the repetition of such scandals several times. 

Budding Prosperity

 In spite of the marshlands that bred mosquitoes and fevers that made several people leave Kingston, the closing of the eighteenth century saw the construction of nice brick houses numbering more than 3,000 in Kingston. The natural harbor of Kingston encouraged trade. Kingston harbor is considered to be the seventh largest of all the natural harbors in the world. The eighteenth century naval wars resulted in considerable traffic to Kingston, bringing prosperity along with it. The inborn festive nature of the inhabitants of Port Royal continued in Kingston.

The population was notorious for excessive drinking and eating. The major income was from the duty on wine sales of a local wine known as Madeira. This was the favorite of the prosperous citizens of Kingston, while the poorer sections were addicted to a risky rum concoction that was aptly named ‘kill-devil’.  The official capital of Jamaica, Spanish Town, started lagging behind Kingston in commerce, prosperity, growth, and fashion. In 1755, the governor of Jamaica shifted the government offices to Kingston but the next governor canceled the order due to strong opposition.

 Exposure to natural calamities 

Kingston and calamities went hand in hand. A destructive hurricane in 1784 was followed by a devastating fire in 1843. In 1850, a cholera epidemic plagued the city, with another fire ravaging in 1862. In spite of these setbacks, Kingston continued to grow and prosper. In 1872, the capital of Jamaica was shifted to Kingston again and this time it was permanent. The earthquake of 1907 destroyed a major portion of the city, killing around 800 persons. The frequent earthquakes led to a strict building construction code in Jamaica, prohibiting buildings of more than 60 feet height. 

Recent Growth 

The 1960’s saw the faster expansion of the city. The upgrading and redesigning of 95 acres of the waterfront area by the government through the Kingston Waterfront Redevelopment Co. led to the modern landscaped boulevards and high rise commercial buildings. This was followed by another development program in the 1980s by the Urban Development Co. of the government. These development programs gave a tremendous boost to the trader mentality of the Jamaicans.

 Today, it is estimated that nearly 15,000 vendors throng the four new and main Kingston markets, namely Jubilee, Redemption Ground, Coronation, and Queens every day, with a turnover of about J$25 million. However, this unchecked proliferation had led to a very serious pollution of the harbor due to the discharge of industrial effluents, sewage, and oil spills. Moreover, the fiery nature of the local residents is reflected in the risks the tourists face from gangs and rowdy elements. Smuggling and corruption is also quite high around the waterfront area.

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  • lindamuraReggae and white sand on Jamaican beaches
    review by lindamura posted more then 30 days ago
    When you say Jamaica you think or reggae music, white-sand beaches and other beautiful landscapes offered by the mountains and waterfalls to mention just the good parts. of course there are many negative aspects like crime and poverty but all you have to do is to be a bit more cautions and...
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Kingston is one of the top 50 cities in the world to visit. This rank is based on our travelers' reviews. Please also take the time to rank Kingston or write a Kingston destination review or travel tip to share your opinion.Kingston is one of the "must visit" tourist destinations in the world. This rank is based on what other travelers shared about their experiences in Kingston.
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