Montego Bay is known as a bustling port city. Often referred to as Mo Bay, this busy hub is filled with resorts where beach bumming is often the only attraction on a traveler’s radar. However, Montego Bay is much more than tacky tourist shops and all-inclusive resorts. While the city might be one of Jamaica’s busiest points of entry, it contains several pockets of history. Montego Bay is home to a selection of great houses, remarkable reminders of what 18th and 19th century life was like on the island. In between your beach time, you will want to make time to visit some of Montego Bay’s historic homes.
Rose Hall Great House: A visit to Montego Bay’s historic homes must begin at the dramatic Rose Hall Great House. Constructed between 1778 and 1790, the home belonged to John Palmer, a wealthy British planter. It was John’s grandnephew and his wife Annie who would garner infamy for the property. Annie was something of a notorious personality, killing off two of her husbands and countless lovers. While a visit to the Rose Hall Great House is largely a tour through a restored plantation as the home was destroyed in a fire in 1831, the house still boasts an extensive collection of furnishings and décor representing the 18th century colonial style. You can take a day tour of the property or a spookier night tour that includes ghost stories of Annie Palmer along with a visit to the dungeon.
Greenwood Great House: Montego Bay proves it has some history with the Greenwood Great House. Built between 1780 and 1800, the home belonged to Richard Barrett, the cousin of famed poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. As a testament to its literary connections, the Greenwood Great House features the original library of the Barrett family. Visitors can expect to see rare books and antique furniture throughout the residence. Much of the 19th century atmosphere still remains. The Greenwood Great House also boasts of being home to the largest and rarest collection of musical instruments and books on the island.
Bellefield Great House: One of the oldest sugar plantations in Jamaica opens up its doors for tours in Montego Bay. Bellefield Great House sits on a lush tropical area of town, sprawling out on 10 acres of land. The estate was built in the late 1600s and acted as the St. James Militia outpost. Tours are offered of the home and its surroundings where you can browse and view artifacts from the Kerr-Jarrett family who have occupied the house for generations. On a tour, visitors can also expect to see the Sugar Mill, a structure originally from 1794. The experience concludes with a traditional Jamaican luncheon.
Photo: Marlon Morgan