Over the weekend I poured over the stunningly beautiful book Caribbean Houses published by Rizzoli. Author Michael Connors, a West Indian decorative arts scholar, provides a fascinating account of historically significant houses in the West Indies.
The book is divided into five chapters, one for each European heritage: the Spanish Antilles, the Dutch Leewards, the English Islands, the French Lesser Antilles, and the Danish Virgin Islands. And, with the disappearance of much Caribbean historic domestic architecture, it is wonderful to see the rich history documented in such a gorgeous book.
The colonial residences presented in Caribbean Houses represent an important historical record of the Caribbean’s material culture. I especially enjoyed learning more about blending of European styles with the vernacular island forms and decorative motifs.
A rare look into the interiors of these historic houses, complete with exotic tropical hardwoods, indigenous stone, local crafts and contemporary furnishings, Caribbean Houses is one for the bookshelf.
A detail of the Whim Plantation, showing the well-laid stonework and neoclassical column and inlaid pediment "eyebrow' above the window. Whim Plantation was founded on St. Croix in the 1740's, only a few years after the Danish purchased the island from the French and colonization commenced.
The seventeenth-century cookhouse and kitchen wing of St. Nicholas Abbey. The massive chimney, with its Dutch-influence design, is the largest on Barbados. St. Nicholas Abbey resembles mansions built in England during the same period. St. Nicholas Abbey is one of the only three surviving Jacobean-style houses that exist in the Americas.
Rose Hall, an eighteenth-century Jamaican house, is one of the grandest English island great houses. The carved mahogany woodwork displays th highest quality of craftsmanship. Rose Hall is now maintained by the Georgian Society of Jamaica.
Cinnamon Hill, another great house located behind and to the south of Rose Hill,was purchased and owned for years by Johnny Cash. It is currently being restored to its original condition and will be featured in the Georgian Society's Heritage Tour.
The grounds of Whim Plantation and the three steps of processing sugar during the colonial era: a livestock mill, a windmill and a steam engine smokestack.
The Alcázar de Colón, sometimes called the Columbus Palace, was built to house Diego Columbus, son the explorer, and his aristocratic wife, Maria de Toledo. A portriat of Christopher Columbus and his son Diego Colón hangs in the Alcázar library.
The Penha townhouse in Willemstad, buit in 1708, is the finest example of Curaçao's baroque style. The four story masterpiece of Dutch-colonial West Indian design has cartouchelike scroll gables and plaster leaf and flower ornamental motifs.
Photo credit © Caribbean Houses by Michael Connors, Rizzoli, 2009.