#TPT: A Tour of Jamaica’s King’s House

I’m not sure why it’s called King’s House as no king has lived there but the official residence of the governor-general, the Queen’s representative in Jamaica, and the home of visiting royalties and heads of state, is known as King’s House.

Jamaica's King's House
Jamaica's King's House

The current King’s House is the third governor’s residence. Although Jamaica has had governors since at least 1661, there was never an official residence. They had to find their own accommodation. This changed around 1690, when the first residence was established in Port Royal. By 1762, however, a new King’s House was completed in the colonial capital, St. Jago de la Vega or Spanish Town, as it is now known.

Jamaica's King's House - The Official Entrance
Jamaica's King's House - The Official Entrance

In 1866, when Sir John Peter Grant, the governor at the time arrived, he set about to make radical and far reaching changes in the country, which was almost bankrupt. Sir John, who was quite private, lived in the governor’s residence in Spanish Town for three weeks before moving to the home he bought in the Port Royal Mountains, where the climate was more to his liking.

Jamaica's King's House - First floor reception area
Jamaica's King's House - First floor reception area

Sir John thought the capital should be in Kingston and by 1870, the government had acquired Somerset Pen, the 190-acre property that for 46 years, had been the residence of the Anglican Bishops of the Diocese of Jamaica. Sir John stayed at Bishop’s Lodge, the bishop’s residence on the property while construction of the new King’s House took place. Two years later, the capital was moved to Kingston.

Jamaica's King's House - Ballroom for official dinners and functions
Jamaica's King's House - Ballroom for official functions

Unfortunately, the house was destroyed by earthquake, and a fire in 1908 that destroyed the stables, a coach house and some of the manservants’ rooms. Some of the features of the old house were incorporated.

The current King’s House is three stories covering approximately 16,000 square feet, and includes a 60-foot indoor swimming pool, which is fed by a natural spring. The pool, which was part of the original house, was frequently used by Sir John, who had a habit of lying on a sofa or in the bath while doing his paperwork.

Jamaica's King's House - The drawing room
Jamaica's King's House - The drawing room
Jamaica's King's House - The chandelier
Jamaica's King's House - The chandelier

On the ground floor are the official entrance and reception area and a ballroom where ceremonies are held. Also on the ground floor are portraits of past governors, governors-general, kings and queens.

Jamaica's King's House - The morning room
Jamaica's King's House - The morning room

The second floor houses the drawing room, where the governor-general meets guests, including visiting heads of state. It is decorated by gold leaf hurricane globe chandeliers that were brought over from the house in Spanish Town. Also on the second floor is the morning room, where the governor-general’s wife greets her guests, has meetings, etc. It has a fine collection of silver which was owned by the British West India Regiment. Living quarters are the third floor.

Jamaica's King's House - Back entrance to carriage way
Jamaica's King's House - Back entrance and carriage way

An exceptional feature of King’s House is the mile-long driveway, which was known previously as Governor’s Road. It is now called Palm Tree Avenue. Several trees, some planted by visiting dignitaries, can be found on the property: a cotton tree which was imported from South Africa in 2009, mahoe and banyan trees from India, and flowers, ferns and plants from all over the world.

The lush grounds are the venue for the annual ceremony on National Heroes Day when the governor-general presents honors and awards.

Jamaica's King's House - The dining room, formerly Bishop's Lodge
Jamaica's King's House - The dining room, formerly Bishop's Lodge

Interestingly enough, Bishop’s Lodge, which has been around since the 1800s, has never been destroyed.

Jamaica's King's House - The key to Bishop's Lodge
Jamaica's King's House - The key to Bishop's Lodge

When you arrive at King’s House, it’s hard not to miss several nests on the portico. Those belong to swallows, that are now dubbed King’s House Swallow, that seemed to have followed the governor from Spanish Town to Kingston.

Jamaica's King's House - The secretariat
Jamaica's King's House - The secretariat

During his time in office, Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke (1991-2006) started a vegetable garden, which still provides vegetables and fresh fruits to hospitals in Kingston.

King’s House in the Movies

King’s House was a shooting location for the 1962 James Bond film, Dr. No. In the movie, however, Bond calls it Government House.

How to Schedule a Tour

Guided tours of King’s House are available by appointment from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday. Apply in writing to:

The Office of the Governor-General
King’s House
Hope Road
Kingston 6

Or email kingshouse@kingshouse.gov.jm

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

34 comments on “#TPT: A Tour of Jamaica’s King’s House

  1. The inside reminds me of how the English might furnish a place. Somehow in my mind I imagined a more relaxed living style. I would be heading for higher hills to get out of the heat too.
    That’s one key that would be hard to hide under the mat.
    Out of curiosity when do you think is the best time to visit Jamaica?

  2. I’ve had food on my mind and I know as good as that house looks, they serve good food in there. Wonder how to go about getting an invite…

    Looks comfy for an official’s place of residence.

  3. What a beautiful building! Perhaps it became known as the King’s House since the Governor General is the King’s representative – by proxy then it would be the residence of the King. Would love to tour it!

  4. I was kinda surprised myself but I imagine they kept the same style when they refurbished. I’d say the best time is between November and March — to escape the summer heat and the hurricane season.

  5. It looks fit for a king! Nice home for the governor-general. Interesting historical information and pics, Marcia.

  6. How beautiful! And even if no king lives there, it sure looks royal 🙂 Plus… nothing beats palm trees in your backyard!

  7. I love to tour historic houses, and since I won’t be in Jamaica for the foreseeable future, I appreciate your giving me this photo tour.

  8. I love these types of tours. It gives an insight into how the upper half live =) It looks very proper but not overly ornate. The back entrance and carriage way shot is beautiful. I guess one will have a hard time losing that key =)

  9. Wonderful interiors. No doubt it is called a King’s House. I’ve had dreams of going to Jamaica and now I hope that whenever I get there, I would also get the chance to tour the King’s House or even just have a picture outside. 🙂

  10. It seems grand and spacious!! Loved the soft interiors. And that key is huge.
    Have a fabulous sunday Marcia:)

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