Half Way Tree Road, Kingston, Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica
“Uptown” meets “downtown” in the constantly entertaining and lively road junction that is Half-Way-Tree. The capital of the parish of St. Andrew, Half-Way-Tree is the unofficial marker of the divide between the urban, inner-city commercial areas of downtown Kingston, and the quieter, residential suburban communities of St. Andrew, and is surrounded by schools, offices, stores, banks and other commercial interests. The area originally gleaned its name from the fact that until 1866, when it died of old age, a huge cotton tree dominated the landscape. The tree was a major meeting point for travelers and traders coming to and from Kingston, Spanish Town, St. Thomas or St. Mary who would stop to refresh themselves at one of the pubs or to haggle with other vendors. Today, even though the tree is gone, the junction is still a major transit point for commuters.
At the intersection where Constant Spring Road, Hope Road, Hagley Park Road and Half-Way-Tree Road meet, stands the Half-Way-Tree Clock, atop a Victorian-era clock tower. The tower and clock were built by public subscription in 1913 as a memorial to King Edward VII of England; on the north side is a bust of the king with the inscription, and the inscription “Edward VII, Peacemaker.” The St Andrew Parish Church, built in 1700 and restored three times since, rests at the intersection of Eastwood Park Road and Hagley Park Road. The church is designed in the neo-Gothic architectural style popular at the time, and contains many interesting artefacts, including the oldest church registers on the island, which date back to 1666 and contain an exhaustive account of the many births, marriages and deaths of members of the privileged classes since the English arrived in Jamaica.
Shop! Shop! Shop! Buy! Buy! Buy! Without a doubt, Half-Way-Tree is best known for its commercial character. Along Constant Spring Road there are many plazas and malls, including the popular "Bend-Down Plaza," a market-style arcade specializing in high-fashion urban gear. There are some things available elsewhere that are best purchased in Half-Way-Tree, specifically: handcrafted leather slippers, "sound cassettes" (audio recordings of dances) and Rasta-made tams, jewelery and belts. Look for wicker baskets and other straw items on nearby South Avenue.
The St Andrew Parish Church is certainly one of the most interesting landmarks in the area, and as one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Jamaica, a walk through the church or attendance at one of the weekly services is an experience definitely worth the time.