Hope Road Walking Tour
Bob Marley Museum, Hope Rd, Kingston, Jamaica
Start: Bob Marley Museum
Finish: St Andrew Parish Church
1. BOB MARLEY MUSEUM
Brilliant red, green and yellow colours decorate the exterior of 56 Hope Road, the former home of Reggae icon, Bob Marley. In recent times, the house and its garden have been transformed into one of Kingston’s premier attractions – a museum showcasing the life, music and accomplishments of the late Honourable Robert Nesta Marley.
Take a guided tour of the Marley complex. Inside the house, you’ll see some of Marley’s personal effects and treasured mementos. In the award room, browse through an impressive collection of Marley’s prestigious awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, given to his family in 2001.
In addition to being Marley’s personal residence, 56 Hope Road was also the site of Ziggy’s Record Manufacturing, and Tuff Gong Record Shop and Recording Studio. Today, the factory has been converted into an exhibition hall with rare photos of Marley and his family. The exhibit also displays some of Marley’s cherished possessions, such as his favourite guitar and mixing console.
Around the house, you’ll discover a collection of small shops and boutiques, tucked away in cosy, tree-shaded corners. Make sure to check out the gift shop, which is Jamaica’s sole supplier of the trendy “CATCH A FIRE” clothing line, designed by Marley’s eldest child Cedella. The gift shop also sells Bob Marley footwear and other souvenir items like posters and key chains. You’ll find more souvenirs in the boutique, Things From Africa, and tons of musical gems at Tuff Gong Record Shop. Facing the house, to your right is Sunfire Juice Club and Restaurant, serving “I-tal” food and natural fruit juices.
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, 9:30am to 4:00pm, but is closed on public holidays. The tour takes about one hour and includes a 20-minute video presentation about Bob Marley’s life.
Directions: Exit through the Museum’s ornate irongate and begin walking in a westward direction along Hope Road. At the intersection with Lady Musgrave Road stands the stately gate to: Kings House.
2. KINGS HOUSE
Kings House was built as the home of the Lord Bishop of Jamaica. It was bought from the church in 1871 for £6000 and became the official residence of the island’s governor in 1872, when Jamaica’s capital was transferred from Spanish Town to Kingston. At that time, a ballroom and dining room were added to the original 18th-century structure. The earthquake of 1907 destroyed the building, which was redesigned and rebuilt in 1909. Today, it is the official residence of the Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke, and his wife, Lady Cooke, and is often used as a venue for state functions. The list of dignitaries entertained at Kings House includes HRH Queen Elizabeth II, former US President Lyndon B Johnson and HIM Haile Selassie I. If you’d like to join the list of honoured guests, you may request to visit Kings House by writing a letter to:
The Governor General
Kings House, Hope Road
Kings House and Lady Musgrave Road share an interesting story. It is rumoured that a former governor of Jamaica built the road on the request of his wife. At the time of the road’s construction, Kings House was the official residence of the governor of Jamaica. The main route from Kings House to the busy districts of Cross Roads and Downtown Kingston was along Hope Road, past Devon House. Lady Musgrave, wife of Governor Musgrave, reportedly appalled by the fact that a black man had managed to build such a prominent house (Devon House) in close proximity to the governor’s residence, refused to drive past the building. In order to appease his wife, Governor Musgrave organised the construction of a road that bypassed Devon House en route to Cross Roads and Downtown Kingston. The road was named after Lady Musgrave.
Directions: Beside Kings House you’ll see the gate to: Jamaica House.
3. JAMAICA HOUSE
Built in the 1960s as the official residence of the Prime Minister of a newly independent Jamaica, Jamaica House now serves as the offices of the island’s leaders.
Directions: Immediately next door to Jamaica House is: The Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre.
4. THE RANNY WILLIAMS ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE/LOUISE BENNETT GARDEN THEATRE
Appropriately named in honour of two of Jamaica’s leading performers, Ranny Williams and Louise Bennett, this complex plays host to many of Kingston’s cultural events, including the Jamaica Festival Queen Contest, Mento Yard and the Jonkunnu Mento Festival.
Louise Bennett is arguably Jamaica’s most famous writer, folklorist, television personality and actress. She has lectured and performed extensively throughout the Caribbean, United Kingdom and Canada, and has published several notable anthologies. “Miss Lou” as she is affectionately called, has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Order of Jamaica and Order of Merit for her contribution to Jamaica’s literary and performing arts.
Like Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams has starred in many Jamaican pantomimes and television shows. “Maas Ran” and “Miss Lou” shared the screen for the smash hit series Comedy Hours.
Directions: Continue walking along Hope Road to the intersection with Waterloo Road and you’ll see: Devon House.
5. DEVON HOUSE
Resting behind elegant palm trees and a picturesque fountain, this graceful house adorns Hope Road. It is thought to be one of the finest examples of the Jamaican-Vernacular style of architecture, popular in the 19th century. In 1881, Devon House was built by George Stiebel, a black Jamaican self-made millionaire and former Custos of St Andrew. The first house of its stature built and owned by a black man in Jamaica, Devon House became a symbol of hope and achievement for the first generation of Jamaicans freed from slavery.
Today, the government of Jamaica owns the house and its grounds. Over the years they have carefully preserved the main building, which still houses many impressive pieces of 19th-century furniture. The grounds have been beautifully landscaped and promise a serene, haven with park benches resting under cool, shady trees. In the buildings beside the main house, you’ll find a fantastic collection of craft shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafés. The Devon House complex includes Jamaica’s most popular ice cream shop with unique, delightful flavours such as Dragon Stout and Blue Mountain Coffee ice cream. There’s also the Brick Oven, a sweet-smelling bakery with sinful pastries, freshly baked in a 19th-century oven. On the main house’s porch, you’ll discover Norma’s on the Terrace, one of Kingston’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Devon House is also a popular venue for art, craft and food fairs. Check with the Jamaica Tourist Board for a schedule of upcoming events. If you’re in luck, you’ll get a chance to take part in these special occasions.
Directions: From Devon House, proceed west along Hope Road to: Half Way Tree.
6. HALF WAY TREE AND THE CLOCK TOWER
This busy road junction and commercial centre gleaned its name from a huge cotton tree that towered over the landscape until the 1870s, when it perished. The tree was a major meeting point for travellers and traders coming to and from Kingston, Spanish Town, St Georges (Portland) and St Mary. Often these weary souls would stop at the pubs and stalls, under the tree’s shade, because it was the city’s halfway point between the markets and residential areas.
Today, Half-Way-Tree is still a halfway point between Constant Spring and Downtown, and Papine and Six Miles (formerly called Ferry). It also continues to be a major transit point for commuters; in fact it is the second largest bus and taxi terminus in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. At the intersection of Constant Spring Road, Hope Road, Hagley Park Road and Half-Way-Tree Road 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, and the inscription “Edward VII, Peacemaker”.
Directions: Beside the bus depot is the Nelson Mandela Park.
7. MANDELA PARK
Named for the anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, this park is used as a venue for political and religious meetings. Nelson Mandela and his ex-wife Winnie Mandela visited Jamaica on Mandela’s post-release world tour. Mandela is regarded as akin to a hero in Jamaica, where the anti-apartheid movement was particularly intense.
Directions: Cross over Constant Spring Road and continue west on Hagley Park Road. On passing the bus depot to your left, the old courthouse stands to the right at the intersection of Hagley Park and Eastwood Park Roads.
8. THE OLD COURT HOUSE BUILDING
Formerly the St Andrew Parish Courthouse, this picturesque building is casually called the “old Half Way Tree Court house”. Constructed in 1807, it was recently renovated by the Jamaica Historical Buildings Trust. The building, with its green louvered windows and closed veranda, is a fine example of the 19th-century Jamaican-vernacular style of architecture. Today, the Institute of Jamaica leases the building and uses it as a Junior Centre.
Directions: Adjoining the courthouse is the: St Andrew Parish Church.
9. ST ANDREW PARISH CHURCH
One of the oldest churches on the island, the original St Andrew Parish Church was founded in 1666, shortly after the British conquered Jamaica. The present building was completed in 1700. The church was designed in the neo-Gothic architectural style popular at the time. Over the years, the structure has been expanded and renovated numerous times. Its walls protect many interesting artefacts, including the oldest church registers on the island, dating from 1666. Visit the cemetery behind the church, and read the informative and interesting inscriptions on the old tombstones.
The Bob Marley museum is open from Monday to Saturday: 9:30 am - 4:00 pm