Colonial Homes of Georgetown
Story by: The National Trust of Guyana
In the ever changing landscape of Guyana, especially in the district of Georgetown, some striking old traditional wooden buildings can still be found. In the conservation of our wooden built heritage, strategies had to be adopted to make the use of historic buildings current so that they can survive for the benefit of future generations. This is so since the original use of the building may not have been sustainable enough to safeguard the future of the building. The term “adaptive reuse” is common among conservation enthusiasts. It is the act of changing the original function of the building or site in an attempt to ensure the survival of the historic building. This change is usually designed for the benefit of the public and in an effort to garner revenue to aid in maintenance.
In adaptive reuse, the aim is to retain the aesthetics of the original building especially the facades. In many such projects the internal areas of the building will be altered to accommodate the new functions of the building. For example, if a historic building which was once a dwelling house is to be changed to a hotel, its internal spaces will be retrofitted to suit the new functions. There are a number of exemplars of adaptive reuse in Guyana including the Dutch Heritage Museum which was once a Court of Policy building located at Fort Island on the Essequibo River, Cara Lodge Hotel, Red House, Castellani House, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport among others. In this article, a number of historic buildings will be featured most of which now serve various functions from what they were originally built for, that is, private dwellings. Some still retain their original purpose such as Austin House.
This residence, located on the corner of Peter Rose and Anira Streets in Queenstown, was built in 1939-40 by the De Freitas brothers for their sister Aurelia De Freitas on the occasion of her marriage to Andrew Baldwin. He was a British schoolteacher who was once employed by Queen’s College.
A team from Charlestown Sawmills led by one “Harry” was responsible for the erection of the house, all timber and materials having been procured from this establishment. Its “Brazilian connection” was initiated through the association of Mrs. Baldwin (nee De Freitas) who acted as liaison for Cruzeiro Airlines, a Brazilian Airline that was operating in British Guyana in July of 1971 upon the retirement of the Baldwins to England.
This building is located at 294 Quamina Street. It was built in the 1840s and was called the Woodbine House and was home to several influential owners. Now a heritage hotel, this building constitutes a variety of architectural features stemming mainly from colonial influences including the prominent Demerara shutters, turned timber balusters and English brick columns. It also has Portuguese ceramic floor tiles and the railing and gate bear the crest of Woodbine House.
This heritage hotel has successfully merged the beauty of traditional architecture with contemporary luxury and comfort.
Dargan House – now UNESCO Office
This traditionally designed building is located on the corner of Robb and Oronoque Streets. It was named after its first and most influential owner Patrick Dargan (1850-1908), a coloured lawyer and Politician. It was purportedly built circa 1880. This elegant two storey wooden building features a unique grand staircase constructed of local wood and is a splendid example of traditional colonial architecture.
It was purchased by the Government of Guyana in 1975. It now houses the office of the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
Home of the Anglican Bishops of Guyana, Austin House is named after Bishop William Piercy Austin (1807–1892) who lived in the original building on the site. Opened in 1842 as the Bishop’s residence, the original building was U-shaped, and was known as Kingston House. Kingston House, in disrepair was demolished in early July 1894 and construction of a new structure started later in the month.
This second building, handed over on October 5, 1894, is the structure we know today as Austin House which is located on High street, Kingston. The 1894 structure is credited to the construction capability of John Bradshaw Sharples (possibly John Bradshaw) and is typical of the colonial structures of the day with steep roofs, Demerara windows and six-paned Georgian windows.
During the tenure of Bishop Swaby (up to 1899) the building was known as Bishop’s Court. In the 1930s the ground floor was enclosed to provide more space for offices and in the 1950s the stained glass windows over the main entrance were added. In 2012 major restorative works were done by Architect Rawle Jordon.
Sharples House, located on the northern portion of Lot 93 Duke Street, Kingston on the western side of the street, was constructed circa 1890. Kingston was the first area of settlement of the British in Georgetown and this particular part of the street, north of Barrack Street, boasts a fine ensemble of 19th century historic wooden colonial homes.
A distinctive feature of this building is the centrally placed open entrance porch with its classical entablature (horizontal roof beam resting on the columns) with a cornice (the top slightly projecting part of the roof beam) and a combined frieze/architrave (the lower part) with running panels of figures – one female, one animal and one male (left to right).
This building is now an apartment building in conjunction with the Duke Lodge Hotel.
Located on the corner of Camp and Church Streets this impressive colonial style structure was designed by H.O Durham and constructed circa 1925.
The imposing facade of push-out jalousie windows on the top floor and with glass windows running the full length of the gallery below join with arches and stairways and high wall within to create a warmth and comfort and security that is almost tangible. The southern tower anchors the building firmly carrying a special feature known as a widow’s walk.
Upon construction, the building was then purchased by E. Kidman and was later sold to a Dr. Browne. In the 1940s, the property was acquired by Dr. Frederick M. Kerry and became the Kerry family home until 1979 when Mrs. Eleanor Kerry sold the property to the Government of Guyana.
The property was then converted to commercial use and became the offices of Design & Graphics – the Government owned Advertising Agency at the time. Today it houses the offices of GO-INVEST, The Guyana Office for Investment.
For further information on monuments and other historic sites in Guyana please contact the National Trust, Carmichael Street, Georgetown. Telephone: (011592) 2255071. Email: email@example.com