The Secrets of the Devon House – Tourism in Kingston Jamaica

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BY ALYSSA MAHADEO 

In a country rich with history, there is an abundance of stories that are sure to take you back in time, to experience a different world, filled with secrets, conspiracies and truths that you might not ever know. The buildings and colonial style architecture of Kingston Jamaica tell their own stories, particularly the Devon House Mansion, located in the heart of Kingston’s downtown area, now a tourist site for visitors to experience first hand one of the country’s greatest treasures.

The Devon House estate sits on a vast area of land, a beautifully landscaped eleven acres in the capital city of Jamaica. This mansion was home to Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Stiebel. This gorgeous house was built in 1891, and was originally a much larger property at fifty one acres. The front of the house is spectacular to behold. The gorgeous Georgian style great house is painted stark white, modeled in colonial style architecture with real wooden shutters framing each window giving it a personal and unique charm.

Visitors to this historical site are taken back in time with a tour of the mansion, each room is it’s own individual experience, telling a story of former residents and imagining them being used during those periods. The house is furnished with a collection of 19th-century antiques for the Jamaican and Caribbean region hosting artifacts from the earthquake in Port Royal and devices created for multi-purpose use. Most of the furniture is exclusive to the Devon House, hand crafted and made of solid oak wood, including the beautiful staircases that take you to the second story of the house. The Devon house is a symbol of the life led by privileged West Indian society in the Victorian era, every room lit by a unique beautiful hand crafted chandelier, some of which were purchased by Stiebel the original owner of the mansion.

This Devon House is a finely crafted piece of historical architecture, remarkable in the sense that it was built by a man whose background was not of high standing. George Stiebel’s climb to success was particularly difficult, as the son of a black house-keeper and a German-Jewish merchant. He made his fortune by investing in gold mines in Venezuela, purchasing ninety nine other properties in Jamaica including the Devon House.

This debonair mansion has been a site for people to visit from all around the world. The Queen and Prince Phillip even made their own trip there back in the day offering their praise and astonishment of the beauty it is to behold. Walking through every room, all of the furniture is staged and displayed as though the former residents have never left. The upstairs ballroom is a spacious area with a piano in the center of the room, overlooked by a hand painted crown-molded ceiling that will take your breath away. The craftsmanship of every intricate detail is something that has to be experienced firsthand and it leaves you in awe of the artisan vision that ties together the Devon House.

Out on the grounds the old stables, kitchens and other buildings on the property have been converted into some of Jamaica’s finest restaurants, confectionaries and souvenir shops. A trip to the Devon house is incomplete without a visit to their local ‘I Scream’ parlor known for their reputation of being the 4th best ice cream shop in the world and the Devon House bakery where you can pick up delicious baked goods for the trip back home.

The Devon House Heritage Site is owned by the Government of Jamaica and falls directly under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism. This property is currently managed by The Devon House Development Limited, which became operational in February 2002 to oversee the re-development of Devon House and manage its promotion and maintenance as the premier cultural attraction in the capital city.

Educating the public about the historical relevance of Devon House and positioning the property as a center for all types of cultural activity as well as an attraction for Jamaicans and tourists to the island are expanding its role in national development.

The Government of Jamaica in displaying its commitment to the redevelopment of this national monument, has, over the years made a radical investment in the site and presented it to local and overseas visitors as the ideal shopping venue. The next time you are in Jamaica, head down to Kingston, make a date and discover the historic secrets and stories of the Devon House!

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