|UFDC Home||| Help ||
|Table of Contents|
|The early Caribbean|
|Historical background and...|
|The sugar plantation|
|The small residence|
|The medium-sized residence|
|The large residence|
|Public and institutional build...|
|Glossary of architectural...|
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
|Table of Contents|
Table of Contents
The early Caribbean
Historical background and urbanization
The sugar plantation
The small residence
The medium-sized residence
The large residence
Public and institutional buildings
Glossary of architectural terms
ARCHITECTURE IN THE
ARCHITECTURE IN THE
EDWARD E. CRAIN
UNIVERSITY PRESS OF FLORIDA
UNIVERSITY OF FLORA LIBRA
Copyright 1994 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
All rights reserved
99 98 97 96 95 94 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Crain, Edward E.
Historic architecture in the Caribbean Islands / Edward E. Crain
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Architecture-West Indies. 2. Historic buildings-West Indies.
The University Press of Florida is the scholarly publishing agency for the State
University System of Florida, comprised of Florida A & M University, Florida
Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University,
University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of North
Florida, University of South Florida, and University of West Florida.
University Press of Florida
15 Northwest 15th Street
Gainesville, FL 32611
Color plates follow page n8.
I. The Early Caribbean 6
The Pre-Columbian Caribbean 6
Early Spanish Exploration 6
The Caribbean Amerindians 8
2. Historical Background and
The English Islands 12
St. Kitts (St. Christopher) 15
St. Lucia '9
The Spanish Islands 29
Puerto Rico 30
Dominican Republic 35
The French Islands 38
St. Martin/Sint Maarten 44
Other Islands 46
U.S. Virgin Islands 48
3. The Sugar Plantation 51
4. The Small Residence 58
General Influences 58
Slave Huts 58
St. Kitts 62
SSt. Lucia 64
' Puerto Rico 67
1 Cuba 68
L Dominican Republic 6
SSt. Martin/Sint Maarten
U.S. Virgin Islands 73
5. The Medium-Sized
St. Kitts 78
SPuerto Rico 85
Dominican Republic 88
St. Martin 93
U.S. Virgin Islands 95
6. The Large Residence 98
St. Kitts o10
St. Lucia 104
Puerto Rico 112
Dominican Republic 19
U.S. Virgin Islands 127
7. Military Facilities 132
St. Kitts 135
St. Lucia 138
Puerto Rico 144
Dominican Republic 149
St. Martin/Sint Maarten 152
U.S. Virgin Islands 153
8. Public and Institutional
St. Kitts 161
St. Lucia 162
Puerto Rico 168
Dominican Republic 172
Sint Maarten 176
U.S. Virgin Islands 177
9. Religious Buildings 182
St. Kitts 187
St. Lucia 188
Puerto Rico 196
Dominican Republic 203
Sint Maarten 210
U.S. Virgin Islands 213
Io. Miscellaneous Buildings 218
Theaters and Places of
Tourism, Hotels, and Apartments 222
Banks and Commercial Buildings 229
Public Markets 232
Transportation Buildings 236
Glossary of Architectural Terms 243
A number of books have been written about the architecture of various indi-
vidual Caribbean islands, some in considerable detail. What has not been previ-
ously accomplished is to put within one cover a well-illustrated work that de-
scribes the significant historic architecture of this entire area. That is the goal of
Because of the difficulty of covering so vast a subject area, certain limitations
have been imposed. I have included only those islands whose buildings are con-
sidered to be of greatest architectural and historic value. (It should be noted that
the Bahamas, although not located in the Caribbean, have been included because
they are an important part of the West Indies and share an architectural heritage
with the islands of the Caribbean.)
I have not tried to cover each island in detail. Sometimes the buildings dis-
cussed are from a single major town, usually the capital of the island. I have always
tried to choose examples that represent the general architecture on the island.
There is also a time-span limitation. Examples are restricted to buildings con-
structed before World War II.
I also explore factors that influence architectural development: physical land
characteristics, climate, the early Amerindian occupants, the arrival of explorers,
the military struggle for control of the islands, immigration from Europe and
Africa, emancipation, and immigration from Asia.
I have grouped architectural examples and presented them by building types-
residences, military facilities, public and institutional buildings, religious build-
ings, and miscellaneous buildings.
Because the most apparent architectural influences are those imposed by Eu-
ropean powers, I have grouped the islands according to the European power that
exerted the most significant influences. In each chapter, English islands are in-
vestigated first. These include Jamaica, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados,
Grenada, Trinidad, and the Bahamas. Spanish islands include Puerto Rico, Cuba,
and the Dominican Republic. French islands include Haiti, Martinique, Guade-
loupe, and St. Martin. Dutch islands include Sint Maarten and Curagao. Danish
influence is unique to the U.S. Virgin Islands, formerly the Danish West Indies.
To facilitate easy reference for the reader, I maintain this order of presentation,
by islands, in each chapter.
The Caribbean Sea, covering an area of approximately 750,000 square miles, is
named for the Carib Indians, who once inhabited this area. There are thirty-
some major islands and island groups and hundreds of smaller ones, many of them
uninhabited. The sea is bounded on the west by the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize,
Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. On the south, the boundary is defined
by the coastlines of Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. On the north, the
Caribbean is separated from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic by the Greater
Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) and the Virgin Islands. The curve
of the small islands in the Lesser Antilles defines the eastern boundary.
The Lesser Antilles also have geographical subdivisions that have been named.
The Leeward Islands, those lying north of fifteen degrees north latitude, include
St. Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Guadeloupe,
and Dominica. The Windward Islands, those to the south, include Martinique,
St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada and the Grenadines. The latter list may also
include Barbados and Trinidad/Tobago. (In the political subdivision used in the
British West Indies, Dominica was included in the Windward, not the Leeward
Islands.) The Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curagao, and Bonaire) are located just
off the coast of northwest Venezuela.
Several maps from the fifteenth century showed a land named Antillia, located
far west of Portugal between the Canary Islands and the southeast coast of Asia.
Sometimes it was represented as an archipelago, sometimes as a single mass of
land. The name Antilles was derived from Columbus's belief that he had reached
the fabled land of Antillia.
The term West Indies, of course, was used by Columbus because he was under
the impression that these islands provided a new route to the Indies, a term that
at that time included the whole of eastern Asia, whose wealth had been described
by Marco Polo a century earlier.
A wide range of environmental factors has influenced architecture in the
Caribbean Islands, and these factors differ from island to island, as well as on in-
dividual islands. There is to be found within this area the complete range of phys-
ical land characteristics-mountains, volcanoes, flatlands, forests, deserts, and so
forth. Each of these situations affected building material availability, and each
presented unique demands for shelter and comfort requirements.
The Caribbean Sea lies south of the Tropic of Cancer and north of ten de-
grees north latitude; although the area is all considered to be tropical, there is con-
siderable variation in climate characteristics. Some areas are arid, almost without
Fig. i.'Map of the Caribbean Sea
Fig. 2. The mountains of Haiti, demonstrating one of the many moods of Hispaniola
rainfall, while others receive excessive moisture. All of the Caribbean islands,
however, experience almost daily clear skies and sunshine, with year-round
temperatures ranging between 75 and 85 degrees F Trade winds from the north-
east serve as a welcome cooling factor, but most of the islands are also subject to
occasional hurricane devastation.
The Amerindians who occupied the Caribbean islands before the arrival of
Europeans responded to these geographic and climatic factors in their simplistic
Fig. 3. The coast of Sint Maarten, a typical tropical Caribbean shore scene
Fig. 4. Typical indigenous Caribbean construction
architecture. Similarly, the earliest European settlers of necessity resorted to basic
approaches for shelter. As soon as possible, though, the settlers yielded to the nos-
talgia of building designs recalled from the mother country. Professional archi-
tectural assistance was usually not available, however, and the recollection of cor-
rect architectural styles and details was often inaccurate. Builders' handbooks were
helpful but frequently required a translation from traditional European building
materials to those that were available locally. There was also usually a lag in style,
Fig. 5. Rose Hall, Jamaica,
nostalgic planter architecture
so that architectural changes occurring in Europe might not be reflected in colo-
nial examples until thirty years or more later.
The most significant aspect of this stage of architectural development in the
Caribbean was that the closer the architecture came to that of the mother
country, the less appropriate it usually was to the tropics. Although familiar
building techniques used by local artisans eventually did help to achieve the tran-
sition to a more appropriate Caribbean architecture in some instances, many
building types never made the shift.
The actual and imagined benefits from control of the Caribbean islands pro-
duced such an intense rivalry among European nations that sometimes the
Caribbean colonies exercised more clout in the mother countries than did the
North American colonies. The North American colonists' complaint of "taxa-
tion without representation" was not heard in the British West Indies, where
Caribbean planters frequently became influential members of the British Parlia-
The Europeans primarily involved in the competition for Caribbean control
were the Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and Danes, and each contributed, in
varying degrees, to the architectural development of the islands. Historical con-
trol of an island sometimes changed with considerable frequency, so there is
seldom influence from a single country but rather from multiple European ar-
chitectural influences. Furthermore, much of the delight of Caribbean archi- s
tecture would have been absent without the contributions of African slaves and
the various Asian indentured laborers and their descendants.
No architecture developed that could be defined as Caribbean and that would INTRODUCTION
apply to the entire area. Because of the independent nature of each island, dis-
tinctions between their architectures persisted, even between those of islands col-
onized by the same European country.
Climate undoubtedly led to some degree of architectural uniformity, once it
was realized that the basic function of a tropical building was to offer simple pro-
tection from rain and sun. This awareness eliminated many of the superficial el-
ements of nostalgic colonial building. More appreciation for the out-of-doors al-
lowed the garden to become an important part of the living environment, which
led to connecting architectural elements between the out-of-doors and the
building enclosure: galleries, verandas, porches, balconies, larger windows, lou-
vered shutters, walls composed almost entirely of doors, and so on. Even the ex-
tensive use of fretwork, although undeniably decorative, had climatic advantages,
for it offered a degree of privacy while still filtering the bright sunlight, allowing
air to flow into the building and maintaining a visual connection with the out-
Wood was the predominant building material in the early colonial Caribbean.
Brick and tile were available for more formal buildings because they were pop-
ular ballast materials on sailing ships coming from Europe. Eventually, some brick
was manufactured in the Caribbean, but its popularity declined when its poor re-
sistance to earthquakes became apparent.
When paint became readily available in the area, color replaced the previous
natural hues of Caribbean buildings. Paint offered fascinating new ways of ex-
pressing the exuberance and gaiety of African traditions, but it, too, was used dif-
ferently on different islands.
Thus the architectural expressions of the Caribbean islands are as varied as the
islands themselves, and yet a general harmonious unity exists within this variety
because of the many common parameters that shaped the architecture.
THE EARLY CARIBBEAN
THE PRE-COLUMBIAN CARIBBEAN
We assume that there were inhabitants of the Caribbean area several millennia
before the first European explorers came to this part of the world and that these
earliest settlers probably came from Asia via a land connection between Asia and
Alaska, where the Bering Strait is now. They gradually scattered over North and
South America and then to the Caribbean, coalescing into separate groups with
distinct cultures. It is known that, about 3500 B.C., a Stone Age people called Si-
boney (or Ciboney) migrated from Florida to the West Indies.
Extensive remains of Amerindian civilizations exist in many locations. How-
ever, few specifics are known about them because of the absence of writing sys-
tems. Most of what has been learned has been from examining artifacts found
during archaeological excavations.
EARLY SPANISH EXPLORATION
Christopher Columbus made four voyages to the West Indies, and we find con-
siderable controversy over the exact routes taken on these trips. On the first, in
1492-93, evidence indicates that he visited the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola
(now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
On his second voyage, 1493-96, accompanied by his brother Diego, he made
initial visits to Dominica, Marie Galante, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, St.
Martin, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. He sighted St. Kitts but
did not land on this island. Before leaving the area, he also revisited Hispaniola
The third voyage, 1498-1500, took Columbus to Trinidad and the coast of
South America, which he assumed to be Asia. He sighted Grenada, then re-
turned to Spain by way of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.
On his fourth voyage, 1502-4, Columbus was accompanied by his son Ferdi-
nand. St. Lucians claim that theirs is the island that Columbus did not discover;
others maintain that he visited St. Lucia in 1502, the year that he went ashore in
Martinique. It is known that, on this last voyage, he sailed west along the coasts
of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, andJamaica before going south to the coasts of Cen-
tral and South America. He then turned north and again sailed past the Greater
Antilles to return home.
With these four voyages, Columbus visited or sighted almost all of the major
Caribbean islands. Spain thus laid claim to the entire Caribbean area, referring
Fig. 6. Probable route of the ear- i
liest Caribbean inhabitants
S- *cr ..,
v^ ^ ,
Fig. 7. First voyage of Columbus
H p S a u .Lt. Z.
THE EARLY. ..-: .. \ ... U .
CARIBBEAN .-- ,ar ,
t Inlc. a
Fig. 8. Second voyage of Columbus
Fig. 9. Third voyage of Columbus
and they quickly lost interest in the Lesser Antilles when they did not find this
precious metal there.
Fig. 9. Third voyage of Columbus
to it as the "Spanish Lake." Gold was the primary goal of the Spaniards, however,
and they quickly lost interest in the Lesser Antilles when they did not find this
precious metal there.
THE CARIBBEAN AMERINDIANS
The Amerindians first encountered by Columbus were the Arawaks, who came
from South America. In the mid-eighth century A.D., they began moving into
Fig. 1o. Fourth voyage of Columbus
.. ..... , . ****. '*.:-., ., ., ,-, '*<*
; i " ...t ... .
.- - .' :}. .- ,: :
Fig. ii. Early print of Arawak Indians
the West Indies and by 1500 had spread throughout all the islands. They formed
a number of groups, including the Lucayo in the Bahamas, the Taino in the
Greater Antilles, and the Igneri in the Lesser Antilles. These were peace-loving
people who gradually blended with the Siboney population. They farmed,
fished, and hunted small mammals and birds for survival. When Columbus made
his first voyage, the Arawaks told him that they had suffered from raids by canni-
bals who lived in the Lesser Antilles to the southeast. These were the Caribs, a
warlike tribe who had also originated on the South American mainland and who
had driven most of the Arawaks out of the Lesser Antilles shortly before the ar-
rival of the Spaniards.
o1 All of the Amerindians in the Caribbean region suffered badly at the hands of
the European settlers. They were enslaved, and many died as the result of harsh
treatment. Others committed suicide. Many more succumbed to European dis-
THE EARLY eases to which they had no immunity. By 1700, the Caribbean had ceased to be
CARIBBEAN an Amerindian region. Today, in all of the Caribbean islands only a few hundred
Caribs survive; they live on the island of Dominica on a reserve established by
the British government in 1903.
Because the Caribbean Amerindians had no writing, they left no descriptions
of their architecture. In his journals, Columbus described an Arawak settlement
as a collection of loosely arranged dwellings, without streets. He saw tentlike huts
made of palm fronds.
Because the Arawaks were seagoing and lived to a great extent on seafoods,
most of their villages were close to the coast or near rivers. Settlements ranged
Fig. 12. Reconstructed Amer-
indian hut, Nassau, Bahamas
from single units of families to towns of fifty or more houses, which were some-
times arranged around ball courts.
One of the largest discovered Arawak sites in the Caribbean was White Marl,
east of Spanish Town, Jamaica, where considerable excavation has been done.
The village commanded an extensive view from the top of a hill at whose base
flowed the Rio Cobre, which emptied into the Caribbean. (A storm in 1722
changed the course of Rio Cobre, and it no longer flows along the foot of White
Marl Hill.) Excavations at this site in 1969 revealed nine postholes placed in a
circle approximately fourteen feet in diameter, with a center post. It is assumed
that lengths of wild cane, rush, bamboo, or palm were fixed between the exte-
rior posts, secured to them with small branches or vines. A cone-shaped roof was
framed to the center post and thatched with grass and palm fronds. This config-
uration is similar to residential structures excavated in other locations in the
Caribbean. Good conjectural reconstructions may be seen at the Tibes Ceremo-
nial Center near Ponce, Puerto Rico; in the Antigua Museum in St. John's; and
on the grounds of the Department of Archives in Nassau, Bahamas. In the Nassau
example, there is the typical center pole plus twelve poles in a circle, each seven
feet five inches from the center.
We find, in addition to circular plans, hexagons and rectangles. Another vari-
ation was a primitive arrangement in which the roof structure emerged directly
from the ground in a tentlike shape. These various shelters, called carbets and
ajoupas and canayes, were simple in construction yet could stand up to strong
winds, even hurricanes. We assume that cooking occurred outdoors. The house
of the chief, whether round or rectangular, was typically larger than the other
Carib houses were similar in plan to those of the Arawaks, although some-
times oval in plan. The houses were grouped around a central plaza in which a
fireplace was located. In both Arawak and Carib houses, furnishings were re-
stricted to wooden stools and tables and hammocks, the last an Amerindian in-
THE ENGLISH ISLANDS
Much British colonization and development occurred under the financing and
administration of private enterprise, organized into joint-stock companies.
Under such a development, patterns of urbanization were not always shaped by
the dictates of the motherland but nevertheless showed strong influences from
England. Larger towns typically had the formality of contemporary European
baroque cities, with central spaces that may have recalled Picadilly Circus or
Trafalgar Square. In the smaller Caribbean towns, the village green concept often
accommodated the courthouse and the parish church.
When Columbus visited Jamaica in 1494 on his second voyage, he named it St.
Jago. The Spanish occupied the island in 1509 and, in the following year,
founded the first capital, Sevilla la Nueva, on the north coast near an ancient
Arawak village. Because of its unhealthy position close to swamps the town was
., ,.. .
Fig. 13. Caribbean map locating Jamaica
abandoned fourteen years later, and the seat of the government was moved across
the island to St. Jago de la Vega.
In 1655, the English failed in an attempt to take the island of Hispaniola from
the Spanish. Rather than return to England in shame, the force sailed west and 13
took Jamaica, which was weakly held by the Spanish. It was the first island taken
forcibly by the British from the Spanish. The name of the capital, St. Jago de la
Vega, was changed to Spanish Town. Although no Spanish buildings survive, the THE ENGLISH
layout of the town nucleus remains, with later British civic buildings benefiting ISLANDS
from the unity of the original layout.
As had been the practice in medieval England, British Jamaica was divided
into parishes. Although in England each parish had a governing body and a
church, in Jamaica parishes eventually served merely as convenient divisions for
controlling large land tracts.
In 1692 the town of Port Royal was destroyed by earthquake. In search of a
new place to live, the survivors decided on the lower part of the Liguanea Plain
of St. Andrew Parish and plans were drawn for the new town of Kingston. Its
physical layout had a formal quality. The major north-south artery was King
Street, the major east-west artery Queen Street. At what would have been the
intersection of these two streets was placed a central square resembling the
London residential squares popular at that time. The parish church was located
on the south side of the square. Space was allocated for a Governor's House, al-
though there is no evidence that one ever materialized. By 1702, however, the
lots around the square had all been acquired by the most influential citizens.
The square was eventually taken over by the army, as indicated by the desig-
nation Place d'Arme on a 1764 map. This change is not surprising, for there was
considerable military activity in the Caribbean in the eighteenth century. Army
barracks and magazines were constructed around the square, and troops drilled
Fig. 14. Old print of Spanish Town, Jamaica, on Emancipation Day, 1838
Fig. I5. Plan of Kingston,
Fig. 16. Old print, ca. i86o, view of King Street, Kingston, Jamaica
Fig. 17. Mandeville, Jamaica, laid out like an English village
in the open area, giving it the name Parade, which persists to this day. The bar-
racks were moved about 1790, and the area eventually became a park, opened to
the public in 1872, the year that Kingston became the capital ofJamaica.
Despite the importance of the square to early Kingston, the nerve center of
the city was Harbour Street, where the major wharves and shipping facilities of
the island were located. At that time, the shoreline was defined by the south edge
of Harbour Street, until filling moved the shoreline south and Port Royal Street
Mid-nineteenth-century Kingston had a downtown area where colonnaded
business places stood at street level, with wood-frame residential units above. The
streets were unpaved. Disastrous fires destroyed large sections of Kingston in
1780, in 1843, in 1862, and again in 1882. The most devastating event, however,
was the 1907 earthquake and the accompanying fires. Most of the buildings in
Kingston were destroyed or badly damaged, and an estimated 1,500 people were
Several small towns in Jamaica show the heritage of the English village. One
is Mandeville, in Manchester Parish, which began as a small early-nineteenth-
century town. The relatively cool climate resulting from its 2,000-foot elevation
made the town a favorite for English residents. The courthouse and the parish
church were important planned ingredients in this English village green concept.
St. Kitts (St. Christopher)
We do not know whether Columbus named this island after himself or after his
patron saint, St. Christopher. Mt. Liamuiga, prominent on the island, was once
an active volcano, and the volcanic origin of the island is apparent in the black
sand beaches and the sulphur fumes still evident around Brimstone Hill.
Fig. 18. Caribbean map locating St. Kitts
Fig. 19. Plan of Basseterre, St. Kitts.
British settlers were taken to St. Kitts in 1624 by Sir Thomas Warner, making
it the first English colony in the Caribbean. Both Britain and France exercised
sovereignty over parts of the island until 1713 when, by the Treaty of Utrecht,
the French were required to leave.
The streets of Basseterre, the capital and principal seaport, are laid out in a
random pattern. The capital's center is the Circus, built in the tradition of Pica-
dilly Circus in London. Defined by a variety of buildings, it is a hive of pedes-
trians and vehicles. The Berkeley Memorial Drinking Fountain and Clock stands
at its center.
Fig. 20. The Circus, major center of Basseterre, St. Kitts, today
Fig. 21. Independence Square, pivotal center of Basseterre, St. Kitts, in the eighteenth century
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the pivot of political, commer-
cial, and social life in Basseterre was Pall Mall Square, now called Independence
Square. It was also the site of the slave market. The Roman Catholic Co-
cathedral, the Courthouse, and numerous residences faced onto the square.
When the Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1982, its replacement was built
on another site, taking with it much of the locale's civic activity and leaving
behind a primarily residential square.
Another significant open area is Warner Park where, in 1983, the newly de-
signed flag of St. Kitts/Nevis was first raised, signifying independence from
Columbus visited Antigua in 1493 and named the island after a church in Seville,
Santa Maria la Antigua, in which he had asked the blessing of St. Christopher
before starting on his second voyage. In 1632, the English moved settlers to An-
tigua from St. Kitts and Nevis; with the exception of a brief occupation by the
French in 1666, it has remained British ever since.
S" \1 ,2' i I '
.. i I l
So I T
'ItI \h )
.IANI ICA ; , 'A n T .I I b I IIb^ ^
SI : ......... ANTIGUA : ,. "
-. | i :I M N IQU,-
I I i i .5 N Lt bT lICI"A. I'4
ST L 0 CIA--4o
L A It u L A N A N'
.,.,. +i.! St VIN C, 'i i
. ... >A... .
_AL.A.. .... .TKINIAL
A' r ra"c-^
Fig. 22. Caribbean map locating Antigua
Fig. 23. Plan of St. John's, Antigua
The capital of Antigua is St. John's, located on an excellent deep-water harbor
and one of the first towns in the Caribbean planned with broad parallel avenues
and narrower cross-streets. Redcliffe Quay, which was a slave-holding area near
the waterfront, has been transformed into a series of shops. The most prominent
building in St. John's is its Anglican cathedral, located on a prominent hilltop.
St. Lucia, one of the larger of the Windward Islands, was settled by the English
in 1639 but in 1640 the colony was wiped out by the native Caribs. Subse-
quently, St. Lucia changed hands between the English and the French thirteen
times, until it finally became English in 1803, the last of the Antilles to fall from
French into English hands. In the development of the island, French influence
has been strong, and most of the inhabitants have been Roman Catholic. St.
Lucia is of particular interest to Jamaicans because it was from the naval head-
quarters at Pigeon Island, off St. Lucia, that Admiral George Rodney set sail to
defeat the French fleet in the Battle of the Saints, when the French were on their
way to invade Jamaica.
Castries, the capital, has a fine landlocked harbor and was at one time the prin-
cipal coaling station for the British West Indies. Castries has burned to the
ground five times. In the disastrous fire of 1948, the Roman Catholic cathedral
was the only large building to survive. Columbus Square is the center of the
town, and the reconstructed buildings that surround it reflect some apparent
, ,, . ` .-'-. . . ..
~~ ~~ [ i". i' ,. ":
13..,1, It \ .,
q-.. w, 1:4 1
ST. LUCIA-* '
I IIINII IJ-
> -=:2 .
- I .- .> '
^.\'r l I
,. : *i. . . .. .. . .
:... ,-. ^
Fig. 24. Caribbean map locating St. Lucia
.. .. .
If 11 -p-I- ^
; H '^ ^
'.'^ ~ ~ ^ *K^m* t
.. ..... .I
... ..... ....
:.... .C.. ..
~%.. ..... .....
Fig. 25. Plan of Castries, St. Lucia
Fig. 26. Columbus Square, Castries, St. Lucia
Barbados is the most easterly of the West Indian islands, too far off the beaten
path to be bothered by would-be possessors. The first Europeans to visit Bar-
bados were the Portuguese, sometime in the early sixteenth century. They named
the island Los Barbados (the Bearded), for the beardlike tendrils hanging from
the wild fig trees. The Portuguese did not settle here, however, and the island re-
i LA N
rIAITI I --) PUE 'T) ,
>.u. AN . L A j BARBADOS--. -
S i i I i i ,RICOVINIT S
Si T 14AR 1 M
-C*^ J ACAO
wr ul 111M1A
Fig. 27. Caribbean map locating Barbados
Fig. 28. Plan of Bridgetown, Barbados
mained without nationality until 1605, when the crew of an English ship claimed
it for their king. After landing in 1625, Englishman John Powell returned in 1627
with eighty colonists. Since then it has been uninterruptedly British and is still
frequently referred to as "Little England." By 1640, Barbados had a population
of about 18,000, which equaled that of the larger mainland English colonies such
as Virginia and New England. Coral limestone covers the greater part of the
island and provides a valued building material.
Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, has a waterfront that has been important
throughout its history. In addition to shipping activity, ships were brought here
for overhauling, cleaning, and caulking. The town seems to have been allowed
to grow in an irregular and haphazard manner. Many of its streets are narrow and
accommodate both pedestrians and vehicles with difficulty. Barbadians are proud
of Bridgetown's Trafalgar Square and its statue of Lord Nelson, which was
erected before its London counterpart.
Grenada, the southernmost of the Windward Islands, was named Concepci6n by
Columbus. Fierce Caribs were able to hold the island for 150 years after that first
sighting, however, and no Spanish ever settled here. It was colonized by the
French in 1650, ceded to the British in 1763, and held again by the French from
1779 to 1783 when, as a result of Admiral George Rodney's memorable tri-
umph, the British won it for good.
St. George's, the capital, is built on a mile-long peninsula that forms one side
of a fine almost-landlocked inner harbor, the Carenage. This harbor is actually a
volcanic crater, with St. George's built on its rim. Here sailing vessels could be
turned on their sides for caulking and repair.
The irregular coastline and hilly terrain contribute to a chaotic street pattern.
The town was first laid out in 1705 by M. de Bellair, the French governor, and
planning was continued by the English when they took possession. A ridge di-
vides St. George's into two towns. To get from one to the other, one must climb
the ridge or go through Sendall Tunnel, a ten-foot-wide passage dug in 1894.
Buildings that line the waterfront, as well as those perched on the hills around
the Carenage, show considerable influence from the days when the island was a
French possession. The brick and the red clay tiles used in construction came to
Grenada on the ships that sailed here to fill up with spices and sugar. The older
buildings also frequently have wrought-iron balconies that are French in style.
aoft r icA
Fig. 29. Caribbean map locating Grenada
Si c s "THE ENGLISH
Fig. 3. Plan of St. Georges Grenada
Fig. 31. Sendall Tunnel, connecting two
sections. Plan of St. George's, Grenada
sections of St. George's, Grenada
Trinidad is the southernmost and largest of the Lesser Antilles. Columbus
claimed it for Spain and named it La Trinidad for a group of three low hills on
the southeast corner of the island, off which he first anchored. The desirability
of attracting workers to the island prompted the Spanish to introduce the Cedula
de Poblacidn, a policy that granted land to non-Spanish settlers. It attracted many
new settlers, particularly from the French islands. These were joined by thou-
sands of French royalists from Martinique and other French Caribbean islands,
who took up residence in Trinidad during the French Revolution. During its
Spanish tenure, the island was subject to raids by the Dutch and the French. In
S N '" LL A N
N i i4
H I NI ,] ', 'NINA
NT "-, IIT> 1 G 1L 0
III .. .. ,
.I n MIN. A'. .
1, U L A N A
R I' \ J'
Iic r? _.3
Fig. 32.. Crbampotn
Fig. 32. Caribbean map locating Trinidad
Fig. 33. 1757 layout of Port of Spain, Trinidad
1797, British forces overcame the Spanish, resulting in the Treaty of Amiens in
1802, when Trinidad was ceded to Britain.
Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad/Tobago, has always been a busy water-
front and commercial center. The original Spanish town was laid out on a rigid 25
grid, although European design forms were not strictly imposed by either the
Spanish occupiers or the immigrant French. Even though the Spanish occupied
Trinidad two centuries longer than they occupied any other of the Lesser An- THE ENGLISH
tilles, they left almost no cultural mark on the island, and the great fire of 1808 ISLANDS
destroyed most architectural symbols of Spanish occupation in the capital. The
original city of Port of Spain was bounded on the south by the Caribbean Sea
Af. A A ,
Fig. 34. Old print of 1851 waterfront, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Fig. 35. Woodford Square, downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad
Fig. 36. Victoria Square, residential park, Port of Spain, Trinidad
and on the east by the Ariapita River. The last Spanish governor, Don Jose Maria
Chac6n, deflected the river from its original position, leaving a dry gully.
A print of King's Wharf and South Cay in 1851 shows a landmark that is still
prominent on the waterfront of Port of Spain. Built on filled land, the octagonal
white lighthouse leans a bit and is nonoperational, but it stands as a pleasant re-
minder of days past (see plate 1). The city has a number of attractive landscaped
urban spaces. Marine Square, a plaza near the water, dates from Spanish days and
was at one time bordered by handsome houses. It is now an active commercial
area, since 1962 known as Independence Square. Woodford Square, formerly
Brunswick Square, central to downtown Port of Spain, provides a landscaped set-
ting onto which a number of significant buildings face.
Several small parks grace more recently established neighborhoods, as well as
the 200-acre Queen's Park Savannah, claimed to be the first designated recreation
ground in the West Indies.
In 1492, Columbus first landed in the New World at Guanahani, the Lucayan
(Arawak) name for the Bahamian island that Columbus renamed San Salvador.
England laid formal claim to the Bahamas in 1629, but the islands remained vir-
tually untouched until English settlers arrived on Eleuthera in 1648. By 1670,
the island of New Providence had 300 inhabitants, and in 1690 a listing of build-
ings in Charles Towne (now Nassau) included the original Christ Church Cathe-
dral, Fort Nassau, and 160 houses.
Although the Bahamas were attacked by both France and Spain during the
eighteenth century, outside of a brief occupation by a small U.S. naval force in
A hIANI A
Fig. 37. West Indies map locating the Bahamas
'' ( /-^= !T i r' f
,__ I \ ,,
I \- j^-1
..I t. ... h _~
.i i ,. .
i !t |
'i .. _.. _.
S ....... i
i I n I c *; I
B a v | S ..- .....~... .... ..... ,..-l- I
l~av St reet
i, -Eriys. r i I
i i j ,......i ._ : L..c .
Fig. 38. Plan of Nassau, Bahamas
1776 and some later unsuccessful attacks by the Spanish, the islands have re-
mained peacefully British. In 1783, many Loyalists fled with their slaves from the
newly independent United States to the Bahamas.
In 1729, Charles Towne was renamed Nassau for King William III of the
House of Orange-Nassau. The line of the original waterfront was then at Bay
Street, with the streets running more or less parallel and perpendicular to it. At
first the Public Buildings directly overlooked the water, but land filling to the
north created space for Rawson Square in front of the Public Buildings.
Mount Fitzwilliam, running east-west through Nassau, is responsible for sev-
eral interesting urban features in the town. A cut through the hill allows Market
Street to maintain a gradual slope as it enters Grant's Town and becomes Main
Fig. 39. Gregory Arch, Nassau, Bahamas
Fig. 40. Pedestrian steps, end of Frederick Street, Nassau, Bahamas
Street. Gregory Arch, which provides a bridge over this depression for direct
access to the east gate of the Government House grounds, was built in 1852 by
the surveyor general, J.J. Burnside, and named after John Gregory, governor at
that time. In 1854, iron railings imported from England were added to the
Fig. 41. Queen's Staircase,
access to Fort Fincastle,
The southern end of vehicular Frederick Street is at Prince's Street. At that
point, because of the steepness of the terrain, handsome pedestrian steps climb
south to East Hill Street.
Farther east in town, at the south end of Elizabeth Street, lies the quarry in
Bennet's Hill that provided the limestone for many of Nassau's early buildings.
The Queen's Staircase located here provided access from the level of Elizabeth
Street through the quarry up to Fort Fincastle. Supposedly cut out of solid rock
around 1793 by slaves, the steps were later named in honor of Queen Victoria.
THE SPANISH ISLANDS
Towns in Spanish colonies were laid out in accordance with strict requirements
set down by the mother country. Following the dictates of Catholic priests and
the Law of the Indies, streets were arranged at right angles to one another, plazas
created, and sites determined for major buildings. The discipline of this spatial
pattern was faithfully adhered to from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest of the Greater Antilles, named by
Columbus San Juan Bautista. When Ponce de Le6n arrived in 1508 to be its first
governor, he is said to have exclaimed, "Que puerto rico!" (What a rich port!)
and so named his settlement. There were about 30,000 Arawaks occupying the
island at that time, but by 1580 they had practically disappeared.
The first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico was at Caparra, a low-lying settle-
-. -4. C
/ '' i
-- "" PUERTO
1. 1, L IfI,,I
I.. .. t C A, .. . ,' ,
Fig. 43. Plan of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
. H I.5 NID ALs i-
,, ,.-i -
ment plagued with mosquitoes. In 1519, royal authorization was given to move
,the settlement to the breezy islet now called San Juan Island, a move that was ac-
Scomplished in 1521. Also in that year, a name switch made Puerto Rico the
island name and San Juan the town. This town became the second-oldest Euro-3
pean settlement in the New World, after Santo Domingo. The layout of Old San
i Juan is basically a grid, concentrated within an area that covers less than half a
square mile. The colonial streets are narrow and in the late nineteenth century THE SPANISH
were paved with blue-glazed bricks, adoquines, which were cast using slag from ISLANDS
European iron foundries.
Because of the hilly nature of Old San Juan, several of the original streets
became, of necessity, pedestrian step streets. Two remain: Callej6n de las Monjas
and Caleta del Hospital. The sloping Plaza of the Cathedral onto which San Juan
Cathedral faces is the oldest of several plazas. On Plaza de Armas, the main six-
teenth-century square, the city's early inhabitants drilled in preparation for at-
tacks. In time, this plaza became an important governmental as well as social
center. The four 100-year-old statues that currently preside over it represent the
Construction on the wall surrounding colonial San Juan began in the 1630s
and was not completed until the late 1700s (see plate 2). It was patrolled day and
night, with six gates that were closed at sundown to cut off access to the city. San
Juan Gate, built in 1639, is the only one surviving. The San Juan wall is the only
one built by Spain in the New World that remains basically intact.
Other towns and villages in Puerto Rico follow the typical Spanish plan, built
around a central plaza with its church, with streets laid out in a grid. Ponce,
founded in 1692 on Puerto Rico's south coast, boasts Plaza las Delicias, a
Fig. 44. Caleta del Hospital, pedestrian step street, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Fig. 45. San Juan Gate, 1639, Puerto Rico
delightful town center where are located the cathedral, city hall, historic fire sta-
tion, and other significant buildings. Fountains, trees, and benches add to its
charm. Ponce was known as "the Pearl of the South" for its elegant houses and
wide, tree-shaded streets. An ambitious renovation of a sixty-six-block down-
town area is currently under way, and many historic buildings have been accu-
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands. Its early inhabitants are supposed to
have been the Siboneys from Florida. At a later date, about A.D. 1100, the Taino
(Arawaks) migrated here from Hispaniola. The island derived its name from the
native Cubanacan, referring to a legendary Indian maiden. The name Juana was
used by the Spaniards, after the son of Ferdinand and Isabella. This gave way to
Ferdinandina, then to Santiago, then Ave Maria, before the return to the orig-
inal Amerindian name.
Although the first settlers arrived in 1511, they lost interest when the small
amount of available gold had been taken from the mines. However, fortifications
were erected after the 1555 sack of Havana by the French. The old city wall was
begun in 1663, completed in 1740, and subsequently revised by the various colo-
nial governments. It eventually became an impediment to the city's growth.
In 1762, the British occupied the island until the Treaty of Paris gave Havana
back to Spain in exchange for Florida the following year. Internal unrest in Cuba
and frustrated attempts at revolution, plus the sinking of the Maine in Havana
Harbor, led to the Spanish-American War, which culminated in an 1898 peace
treaty in which Spain relinquished claims to Cuba.
S i N 1 1 N
HIAIT I I I i
IITc l !,T i I ARTlI rI
1 I K II, t ouoKs, &rI t 1'0
I i INi LNt
AAON IELN A 0
: |I ; .. l
.. -CI ACAOG I ENAIDA-1
bI -If 1
Fig. 46. Caribbean map locating Cuba
Fig. 47. Plan of Old Havana, Cuba
Because of its fine harbor, Havana had quickly become Spain's navigation
center in the Americas and replaced Santo Domingo as the most important
Spanish colonial city. Its original center was Church Square, located near the
port, where the first parish church was built. Known as Arms Square (Plaza de
las Armas) after the troops from Real Fuerza Castle began to drill here, it remains
an impressive urban space with a shady park surrounded by significant buildings.
The only remaining wooden pavement in Havana is on the west side of the plaza;
its original function was to muffle the sounds of military traffic.
Old Square (Plaza Vieja) became the focal point of Havana's commercial and
social life after Arms Square was taken over by the military (see plate 3). Sur-
rounded by arcaded buildings, Old Square became the city's primary market
center. A modern underground parking garage that has raised the surface of the
square provides an unfortunate interruption to the original spatial quality. Cathe-
dral Square (Plaza de la Catedral) is considered Havana's most architecturally har-
monious square. In addition to the baroque cathedral, magnificent mansions that
provided the spatial definition for the square have been restored and adapted as a
gallery, restaurants, museums, and so on. Old Havana also has two smaller but sig-
nificant squares: Christ Square and San Francisco Square. The Old City, despite
its deterioration, has remained essentially unchanged for centuries and in 1982
was classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the 1925-33 administration of Gerardo Machado, the French archi-
tect Le Forestier was commissioned to do a reordering and beautification of
Havana and U.S. architects John M. Carrere and Thomas Hastings, as well as
Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, were involved in signif-
icant architectural work.
Fig. 48. Arms Square, Havana, Cuba
Fig. 49. Tree-lined Prado, Havana, Cuba
Although this urban study deals primarily with Old Havana, Paseo de Marti
(Prado) lies just west of the old city, a handsome, tree-lined promenade whose
generously wide walk has large geometric terrazzo patterns. Stone benches
divide its outer edges from the streets. The buildings that line the streets, despite
their architectural variety, are unified by the continuous arcades at street level,
under all the buildings. Prado originates at the north waterfront near Punta
Fortress and is a major thoroughfare until it encounters Maximo G6mez
Smaller Cuban towns demonstrate the usual Spanish plan, with the church in
a prominent location and public buildings surrounding a central square.
Columbus called the island of Hispaniola La Isla Espaiiola because he thought it
resembled Spain. The Amerindians there were Arawaks and Caribs, the latter
having wrested most of the island from the former. The native Indian population
disappeared rapidly, either killed in battle or by disease. After Spain acquired
Mexico and Peru, Espafiola (eventually corrupted to Hispaniola) was viewed
with less importance. In 1697, by the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain was forced to
recognize the dominion of France over the western third of the island. In 1822,
the whole island was subdued by residents of the French portion, who remained
in control for twenty-two years. In 1865, the country was reannexed to Spain
and then once again was prey to revolutionaries and assassinations. A U.S. mili-
tary government ruled the country from 1916 until 1924, when constitutional
government was restored.
When on his second voyage Columbus found no trace of the settlement that
Fig Caribbean map locating Dominican Republic
Fig. 50. Caribbean map locating Dominican Republic
Fig. 51. Plan of Colonial Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
he had established on his first, he founded a new city farther east on the north
coast of what is now the Dominican Republic, naming it La Isabella, after the
queen. In 1498, however, gold was discovered on the south coast, and the occu-
pants of La Isabella moved there and named their new settlement Santo Domingo 37
de Guzman. This became the capital not only of this island but of all the lands
claimed by Spain at that time.
.L ^^ c a
.. -A .-...^ ^ ,
:- ,^ 1. ,. Z-' ,y rgly i j *
Fig. 52. Plan drawing ca. 1690 of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Fig. 53. El Conde Gate, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Colonial Santo Domingo basically followed a gridiron plan, enclosed by a
wall, remnants of which still exist to define the area. Of the four gates to the city,
three still exist. Diego's Gate, built in 1509, is on the river side of the city near the
home of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher and the second governor of the
island. Misercordia Gate or the Old Savanna Gate, also built in the sixteenth cen-
tury, was named for the small chapel nearby. El Conde Street, which runs the en-
tire east-west dimension of the colonial city, terminates at El Conde Gate on the
western edge. The inscription above this eighteenth-century gate reads "Dulce
et decorum pro Patria Mori" (It is sweet and decorous to die for one's country.)
Colonial Santo Domingo has a number of pleasant plazas on which prominent
buildings are located and in which are placed monuments to the country's heroes.
THE FRENCH ISLANDS
The French Islands experienced a variety of disruptions in addition to the fre-
quent change of ownership characteristic of all Caribbean islands. Earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions, and revolutions in various locations undoubtedly kept cities
on these islands from developing in similar ways. Nor was the French West India
Company able to exert much influence, as it existed for only ten years. What-
ever the reasons, French influence is much more apparent in colonial building
than in planning.
When Columbus first visited Hispaniola, the island was called Hayti, which
meant "mountainous" in the Arawak language. As with the Dominican Re-
public, the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick ceded the western third of Hispaniola to
France; the French named this section St. Domingue.
Fig. 54. Caribbean map locating Haiti20
HAITI f col .
N:5 30 AINCE t
M ARTINIC i
Fig. 54S Caribbean map locating Haiti
Fig. 55. Plan of Cap
The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 awakened the desire for
freedom in the various French colonies, leading to slave uprisings. In 1793, a
French decree abolished slavery in St. Domingue, but the decree was rescinded
and a rebellion followed. The leader of this rebellion was Toussaint L'Ouverture,
who was captured and sent to France, where he died. Two new leaders, however,
kept the fires of rebellion blazing. Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Petion
led the rebels to victory, and in 1804 the former French colony became a free
and independent nation, and the name Haiti was substituted for the French St.
Domingue. After Dessaline's death in 1806, Henri Christophe ruled the land
until his death in 1820.
Cap Haitien, on the north coast, was founded by the Spanish in 1667, using
the Spanish colonial city model. The French renamed it Le Cap Franpais, and for
the last half of the eighteenth century it was considered the Paris of the entire
island. After its destruction in 1802 during the revolution, it was eventually re-
built by Christophe and renamed Cap Haitien. The earthquake of 1842 de-
stroyed many of its buildings of architectural value.
Port-au-Prince, founded in 1749, became the capital of Haiti. Its plan is basi-
cally a grid, with a number of irregular, randomly located streets. An interesting
departure from the grid occurs in the Champ de Mars, with its Versailles-like
diagonal treatment of the streets. This area, onto which the National Palace faces,
I; I L I N , \
i Fig. 56. Plan of Champ
de Mars, Port-au-
Sj /Prince, Haiti
was laid out in 1953. In the newer parts of the town, broad boulevards contrast
with the narrow streets of the old section.
It would be negligent in discussing the urban scene in Haiti not to mention
the "tap-taps," those marvelously decorative open-air minibuses without which
the streets of Port-au-Prince would seem drab (see plate 4). They symbolize the
energy of the city, each a unique sideshow that combine to create a delightful
An open market off Avenue John Brown Lalue in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, re-
quires no architecture to demonstrate the kinetic energy that characterizes the
Caribbean market (see plate 5).
The name Martinique is derived from the Carib Madinina, meaning "Island of
Flowers." The island was not colonized until 1635, when a Norman nobleman
landed with a group of French settlers and built Fort St. Pierre. The island ex-
perienced attacks by the Dutch and the British, the latter gaining possession in
1794-1802 and in 1809-14, after which it became and remained French. For a
time, Martinique was the most prosperous of the French colonies, producing
sugar, coffee, cocoa, and indigo.
Before 1902, the most important town in Martinique was St. Pierre, the cap-
ital and busiest port. The center of the island's intellectual life, it was known as
the Paris of the West Indies. In 1902 Mont Pelee erupted, destroying St. Pierre
and its 30,000 inhabitants. Existing ruins attest to the force of this disaster.
k;.i i! r
20 I N 4
I '3 lINAI IN
*r y ~ ~ I' ,, P.l, i .
-Ift ,. I I 'A
(mLI Ot l1111
;,i I~S1 I tICIA~
ii-i I-- - '"
.... N ",""L-,k -,l. 1 I.'
N I III.AI hl-ll- KI[ Nl I|'
zl !.' r . ... .
Fig. 57. Caribbean map locating Martinique
,; -,xl~: i i IIol l i L A N b I .\4 ,|\(l \Il
--;! .fr rir 8 !
i%' ii .. .. -
Fig.~ 57 Caiba ma loatn Martinique -
...... 2' ',
. .. ..., ,..
..-.. -"" 0
... /. ,
Fig. 58. Plan of Fort-de-France, Martinique
Fort-de-France, the current capital of Martinique, is built in a half-circle
around a small but deep harbor and accounts for one-third of the island's popu-
lation. In addition to having a fine port, it is the island's commercial and cultural
center. The town's focus is a twelve-and-a-half-acre waterfront park, Place de la
Savane, a successful blend of sidewalk cafes, open spaces, tree-shaded footpaths,
and well-trimmed gardens. A prominent feature of the park is a white marble
statue of Empress Josephine, who was Martiniquan.
... ,- -- -. ,
Although many of the streets of Fort-de-France are too narrow to accommo-
date the demands of contemporary automobiles, fortunately a good mix of com-
mercial and residential occupancies in the downtown area provides an impressive
The 1856 Gueydon Fountain, an interesting civic monument, was built to
supply pure water to the capital. It required 28 months to construct and brought
water from the heights of the Didier quarter of the city, a humid zone. The foun-
tain no longer operates.
Fig. 59. Place de la Savane, city park in Fort-de-France, Martinique
Fig. 6o. Statue of Empress Josephine, native of Fig. 61. Gueydon Fountain, once the source of water
Martinique for Fort-de-France, Martinique
Columbus named Guadeloupe in honor of the monks of the Monastery of
Guadeloupe in Estremadura, in fulfillment of a vow he made to that group before
starting out on his second voyage. The Spanish never colonized the island and 43
finally abandoned it in 1604, because of the hostility of the Carib Indians. Al-
though France claimed it in 1674, it was subsequently held by the British on
three occasions, was transferred to Sweden in 1813, and finally was restored to THE FRENCH
France in 1816. Guadeloupe is really two islands, Basse Terre and Grande Terre, ISLANDS
separated by a narrow channel.
Fig. 62. Caribbean map locatingL Guadeloupe
J P o i n eI i 8 L I G e,
.C A A 1 B . A C A N A 1R. ,AR A00
.I ,.,C.. .-.
Fig. 62. Caribbean map locating Guadeloupe
"" >/ s- / l
Fig. 64. Place de la Victoire, waterfront park, Pointe-au-Pitre, Guadeloupe
The capital of Guadeloupe is Basse Terre, but the largest and most active town
is Pointe-au-Pitre, because of its excellent deep-water harbor. Laid out with
broad streets, Pointe-au-Pitre soon became the commercial center of the island,
although it lacks the sophistication of Fort-de-France in Martinique. Consider-
able open area has been devoted to public space on the waterfront at Place de la
Victoire, with a bandstand, fountains, benches, and recreation areas. A spacious
marketplace, also with a fountain, is the scene of great activity on market days. A
large segment of land in the newer section of town has been devoted to muni-
cipal buildings, including a Center for Arts and Culture.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten
The island owes its name to the day Columbus sailed into it, St. Martin's Day.
Dutch and French settlers arrived in 1638 but two years later were driven out by
the Spanish. In 1648, the French and Dutch regained possession and peaceably
divided the island between them, with twenty-one square miles going to the
French and sixteen square miles to the Dutch. This situation has endured, with
only minor clashes, for almost 350 years.
Marigot is the capital of the French portion of the island. Less rugged than the
south side of the island, this section continues to be used for farming and raising
Philipsburg, capital of the Dutch section, is located on a lagoon between the
Great Salt Pond and Great Bay. It is a small two-street town with a long history
of salt production for Holland's salt-fish industry until about 1900. The popu-
larity of the town as a tourist center is reflected in its well-maintained pastel-
colored buildings, attractive shops, and flower-bedecked streets.
SM uJAMAICA p ISLANDS
It I I 1 A L A N AA A IIA..\
Fig. 65. Caribbean map locating St. Martin/Sint Maarten
SFrench side '
-t K S *N. _
S.- ,. .," ,. M arigot,-
Fig. 66. 66. ap of St. Martin/ -
Sint Maarten Dutch side "
Fig. 67. View of Marigot, capital of French St. Martin
When Alonzo de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci visited Curapao in 1499, it was
occupied by Arawaks. The Spanish founded a small settlement there in 1527,
which was taken over by the Dutch West India Company in 1634. Peter
Stuyvesant, who was installed as governor in 1643, lost his leg leading an expe-
dition against the island of St. Martin the following year. The French and the
English made several attempts to occupy Curacao; the English succeeded but re-
turned the island to the Dutch in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens. During the
Napoleonic period, the British successfully attacked Curacao in 1804-5 in their
war against France and the Netherlands, but they again returned it to the Nether-
lands, this time in accordance with the Treaty of Paris in 1816.
The Dutch West India Company had been established in 1621 to facilitate set-
tlements in the Caribbean. Because the Dutch came from a predominately urban
society, their attitudes toward their colonial towns reflected their background,
and their laws promoted the appearance of urban density. For example, corner
lots had to be built up first to give the appearance of density. Lots that remained
vacant could be confiscated and resold to buyers who would build. Mercantile
advantage, rather than political or ecclesiastical promotion, was the main moti-
vation of the Dutch settlers.
CuraCao is mostly flat, parched, and arid. Useless for agriculture, the island
never became a labor-intensive plantation colony, although sheep, goats, cows,
and horses were imported from Europe and raised here. It also became one of the
most active slave centers in the Caribbean.
The capital of CuraCao is Willemstad, named for Dutch King Willem II in
1647. It is divided by St. Anna Bay, one section called Punda (the Point), and the
other Otrobanda (the Other Side). The two sections are connected by the
famous 100-year-old Queen Emma Floating Bridge. Built of wood in 1888, the
structure was reworked in metal in 1939.
I I -I I I-- i ru-n-J ,
IIA I 1L)
": v Rc t;" ;S ~ l .. -'
Fig. 68. Map of Caribbean locating Curacao
5. CRITTh R I C 01
:;- IMA IC A _T 11TS^ lot
x: f !-MARTIN10aft a
sy. tttA 4
IC A R I I1 B E A E A ~ ~
i ,CURACAO IGR0`ATt
I U 0 F21a I T, tW AD
Fig. 68. Map of Caribbean locating Curacao
Oil refining and tourism provide prosperity for Curagao, and its historic struc-
tures are, for the most part, well preserved. Its pastel-colored buildings, with red
tile roofs and curvilinear gables, maintain a Dutch flavor in Willemstad, earning
for it the title "Amsterdam in Miniature."
Wilhelminaplein (Wilhelmina Park), with a statue of the Dutch queen of that
name, is frequently the scene of cultural and musical events. A number of civic
buildings face the park.
Fig. 69. Plan of Willemstad, Curacao
Fig. 71. Wilhelmina Park, Willemstad, Curacao
Fig. 70. Queen Emma Floating Bridge, Willemstad, Curacao
U.S. Virgin Islands (the former Danish West Indies)
The Virgin Islands, lying between the Greater and the Lesser Antilles, were first
settled by Amerindians who came to the area around 1500 B.C. Arawaks arrived
there around A.D. 300. Columbus named the islands Las Virgenes, for St. Ursula
and her martyred virgins. The islands remained undisturbed until 1555, when a
Spanish expedition defeated the Caribs and claimed the islands. The Dutch tried
to settle on St. Thomas in 1657 and the Danes in 1666. The British occupied St.
Thomas in the years 1667-71, succeeded by the Danish West India Company in
1672. St. Croix was owned, successively, by the Dutch, English, Spanish, French,
and the Knights of Malta; the last group sold it to the Danish West India Com-
pany in 1733. In 1755, the Danish crown took over the sovereign rights of the
chartered company. The British again occupied the islands briefly, but they were
returned to Denmark in 1817. When ships converted from sail power to steam,
the Virgin Islands ceased to be an essential stopover point for shipping and the
economy suffered. The emancipation of slaves and the decline in sugar prices had
a similar effect on the plantations.
The United States purchased St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, and about fifty
smaller islands from Denmark in 1917 because of their strategic value in pro-
tecting the approaches to the Panama Canal.
Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas, is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands,
named in 1691 after the queen of Denmark. Its Government Hill district was
planned in the 1760s as a regular grid of parallel and perpendicular streets, seem-
ingly ignoring its steep terrain. As a result, a number of the streets actually de-
veloped as extended pedestrian staircases, and so they have remained.
Emancipation Park, on the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie, commemorates
the 1848 abolition of slavery. Frequently the site of great community activity, the
park offers a pavilion for concerts and other entertainment.
The island of St. Croix has two interesting towns, Christiansted and
Frederiksted. The former, founded in 1735, was the capital of the Danish West
C A R .I BI H A I ,
Fig. 72. Caribbean map locating the Virgin Islands
Fig. 72. Caribbean map locating the Virgin Islands
~^/--'; ^S AHT^ \ lll
iT ItiCIsA N- T 16
~n III 114'
Ill N NT 1
^..Ht.NAUA?" i 2
i | a
\~ ~~ ~ }^mN,^
Fig. 73. Plan of Charlotte -
Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.
Fig. 74. Emancipation
Park, Charlotte Amalie,
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
Fig. 75. Waterfront Park, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
Indies for many years and was one of the first Caribbean towns to adopt a
building code. This 1747 document regulated street widths and block sizes and
established zoning for the various occupancies. But, perhaps more important,
buildings within the town had to use fire-resistant materials. This restriction pre-
vented the fires that destroyed so much early architecture throughout the
Caribbean, thus allowing one to see this port town much as it was in its ear-
The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century buildings in Christiansted have
pleasant arcades over the sidewalks, providing good protection from sun and rain.
The four square blocks along the waterfront have been designated a National
Historic District, and the park adjacent to the fort is the scene of numerous com-
Frederiksted, founded by the Danes in 1751, has a deep-water harbor that
became a major export site for rum and sugar. In 1867 a tidal wave washed away
many of the town's buildings, and in 1878 fire resulting from a labor revolt de-
stroyed many more. In the rebuilding, Frederiksted took on a Victorian appear-
ance quite unlike the architecture of Christiansted, and the ornate Victorian style
in vogue at that time is apparent in many of the replacement buildings.
Although other crops were grown in the Caribbean, sugar reigned supreme
during colonial days and was the main reason for the competition among Euro-
pean powers for possession of the Caribbean islands. The nature of the operation
required a large estate and a well-equipped factory to make cultivation profitable.
In the eighteenth century, it was estimated that the minimum to accomplish this
was 300 acres of land and 30 slaves to work it. Larger estates were even more prof-
itable, and some were as large as 3,000 acres.
The original home of sugarcane was the South Pacific. Coming to Europe by
way of India, it was probably introduced into Hispaniola by Columbus, and from
there it went to the other islands. Barbados, in 1640, was the first English island
to start systematic cultivation.
The desired ingredients for a sugar plantation were fertile soil, accessible loca-
tion, proximity to shipping, and a stream of water on the premises. The principal
buildings in the work area were the mill, boiling house, curing house, still, and
trash house. In addition to the actual mill operation, there would have to be
Fig. 76. Old print showing slaves "holeing" sugarcane
workers' houses, and shops for the various crafts workers, such as blacksmiths,
carpenters, coopers, and wheelwrights.
Demanding the least in terms of location was the animal mill, whose building
was usually round or octagonal with a conical roof. At the center, three vertical
rollers were rotated by a system of cogs, activated by one or two horizontal shafts
to which oxen, horses, or mules were yoked. To power the mill, the animals were
driven around in a continuous trot as the cane was fed into the rollers.
Fig. 77. Drawing of canes being carted to the mill, ca. 1836
^ hospi tal
work shops overseer,
j '., officials
-/_ f uel
*r ,. .
t .. h o .u:se -
_great house 3,
I. -,, .., ,-. .
mu m mm . factory yard house
I.ltI! windmill water
sugar cane animal boiling
", still mill hou
house u 2'-
.i.r e : th... .ai b --iea a t i n ,
--* "* .,l ll ji~lli *l ~ l tlli!f
FIig 7 l e Ion1
Fig. 78. Typical arrangement of the Caribbean plantation
sugar cane "*
For obvious reasons, if windmills were used to power a mill they had to be lo-
cated on open or hilltop sites, which frequently restricted their use. Nevertheless,
shells of this type of mill exist all over the Caribbean, attesting to its popularity.
Where available, streams or rivers provided the most efficient power, even 53
when the water source was remote from the plantation. An elevated aqueduct
was required for an overshot wheel, where the weight of the water turns the
wheel; an undershot wheel depends upon the velocity of the water to turn it. THE SUGAR
Because the flow of a river or stream depends upon rainfall, dammed reservoirs PLANTATION
were frequently created to store water in the event of a shortage. There are many
aqueduct ruins in the Caribbean, some designed to bring water for a distance of
Fig. 79. Drawing of a Caribbean windmill, 1823
Fig. 81. French illustration of an overshot water mill
Fig. 80. Drawing showing op-
eration of a windmill
several miles from the source. It was not unusual for two or all three of these
power sources to be in use at a single plantation.
Steam power was introduced in the late eighteenth century but was not widely
54 used in sugar mills until the second half of the nineteenth. This power change,
which revolutionized the entire sugar industry, was accompanied by a change in
the design of mill equipment, so that the rollers were placed horizontally instead
THE SUGAR of vertically.
Fig. 82. Hope Aqueduct, Kingston, Jamaica
Fig. 83. Drawing of an Antiguan boiling house, 1823
In the processing of sugar, the juice was squeezed from the cane and brought
to the first cistern in the boiling house, where it was tempered with lime to assist
in removing dirt. It was then boiled in a series of vats heated by furnaces fueled
by bagasse, the crushed canes that had been dried in the trash house. When the 55
juice was reduced to sugar, it was put into casks; they were moved to a curing
house, then taken to the wharf and shipped. By the 1850s, decentralization was
under way, for the cane increasingly was taken to remote factories to be THE SUGAR
Fig. 84. Whim Plantation great house, late 1700oos, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Fig. 85. Whim Plantation animal mill, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
Fig. 86. Whim Plantation windmill, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
Fig. 87. Whim Plantation windmill rollers
The "great house" of the planter was remote from the mill and slave quarters,
usually in a location with the best view. By the early twentieth century, the
planter-proprietor was frequently an absentee owner, and the overseer's house
began to replace the great house.
The restoration at Whim Plantation, near Frederiksted in St. Croix, U.S.
Virgin Islands, shows the typical organization of a Caribbean sugar mill. Whim
is valuable as the only one preserved of some 300 estates on St. Croix operated
by the Danes in the early 1700s (see plate 6). The site, 12 of the original 150
acres, is under the auspices of the St. Croix Landmarks Society. There is no
stream to operate a water mill, but all other mill types are present. The floor of
Fig. 88. Whim Plantation steam
mill, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
Fig. 89. Whim Plantation boiling house chimney
and windmill, St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
Fig. 90. Remains of Whim Plantation distillery,
St. Croix, U.S.V.I.
the animal mill is slightly elevated, accessible by ramp. Two animals rotated the
horizontal shaft that turned the central cylinder, which, with cogs, turned the
two exterior cylinders. This arrangement allowed cane to be fed in from both
sides. The windmill has been visually restored with excellent stone masonry, the
openings accented by classical quoins. Its floor is also elevated, although it is not
a two-level operation. The remains of two steam mills, put into use in 1865 after
emancipation, show that the rollers had been changed from vertical position to
horizontal, as was typical.
Only the foundation and great smokestack remain from the boiling house at
Whim, and a large copper still recalls the days of rum making. Whim Plantation
ceased its sugar mill operation in the 1920s. Its great house will be discussed later.
THE SMALL RESIDENCE
The residence category is divided into three chapters for residences that are small,
medium-sized, and large. The divisions are admittedly arbitrary, without specific
areas, number of rooms, and so on, to determine the category. "Small residence"
includes the most basic huts, chattel houses, one-story cottages, and bungalows.
It is difficult to attribute with certainty the various external factors that influ-
enced the design of the early small Caribbean residence, as African and European
folk housing were similar in several basic ways. A two- or three-room rectangular
house with mud walls and a thatched roof could have been found as easily in early
rural England as in much of West Africa. We can speculate on certain design el-
ements, however. The front porch can probably be attributed to African influ-
ence, as no antecedent is found in England or elsewhere in northern Europe.
Living with constant tropical heat and humidity undoubtedly inspired this fea-
ture in African house design. Even though some parts of Central Africa have ex-
amples of gable-entry houses, the shotgun house (one room wide, one story tall,
several rooms deep) was not used there. This organization of rooms is thought to
have originated in the West Indies and, in the early nineteenth century, to have
entered the United States via New Orleans.
Although some written descriptions of slave huts survive, helpful information
comes from old prints that depict slave villages on plantations. Slave quarters
were typically located where the soil was not tillable. Just large enough to house
a slave household, one or two rooms, the square or rectangular huts were
arranged in neat rows. They were built of materials most easily available and so
varied considerably from place to place.
Sometimes slave huts were built by the planters, sometimes by the slaves them-
selves. The floor was usually tamped earth, with an occasional raised platform as
a base for beds. We assume that wood and other tree products were the original
materials for the walls. If timber was not available and local stone was, it would
be used. Sometimes a timber frame would have an infill of stone or of wattle and
daub. Wattle was a weaving of saplings, branches, vines, or split bamboo, over
SW ~ .EMANCIPATION
Fig. 91. Print of a Caribbean plantation showing slave huts, 1784
which would be plastered a clay mixture (daub), a building technique with which
the slaves were familiar because of its wide use in West Africa.
Palm thatch was a readily available roofing material that had been used by the
Arawaks and Caribs, as well as by the Africans. Palm fronds were cut and left to
become limp and flexible for easy handling. In Africa, long fronds were typically
used, the two halves plaited together and attached horizontally to the roof
purlins. The Caribbean method used fan-shaped palmetto fronds, which were
laid up and down the roof. This method was probably used by the Arawaks, for
Central American Indians, relatives of the Arawaks, still use it. Reeds, grass, or
cane tops, in addition to palm fronds, were also used as roofing materials. Thatch
was sometimes used for both roof and walls.
African huts tended to provide total closure against the outside, and it is not
surprising that slaves refined this design. Their private world was confined to the
interior of their huts, and they protected this limited privacy with solid walls or
openings that could be closed with solid shutters. They cooked out of doors, as
was customary in Africa. There were usually small garden plots around the huts,
or provision grounds that the slaves tended in their free time. When they pro-
duced more than they needed for their own use, they frequently sold the surplus
at Sunday market.
Emancipation brought little immediate change to workers' dwellings. Wattle and
daub, also thatch, survived into the twentieth century, and these materials con-
tinue to be used in some Caribbean localities. The use of wood boards has
typically replaced wattle, however, and the use of unit masonry construction is
now widespread. Probably the most important result of emancipation was the
changed way in which the worker related to his home. Less need for isolation
6o within the building allowed the development of a closer relationship to the land.
And without restrictions imposed by the planter, individual creativity began to
affect the buildings.
THE SMALL Mobile houses became desirable for a number of reasons. With the industrial
RESIDENCE cultivation of sugarcane, the demand for laborers was not locationally constant,
and it sometimes became expedient to move the small dwellings according to
need. Often these mobile homes were chattel houses, placed upon land that was
not owned by the occupant.
The early-nineteenth-century invention of the light timber frame in the
United States had considerable impact upon the entire West Indies. Modular
construction was extremely useful, for it could be dismantled and moved easily.
The invention of the fretsaw in the mid-nineteenth-century was responsible for
much of the decorative delight of small Caribbean residences. A formal similarity
can be observed in the small residences of the various Caribbean islands, yet a
closer look reveals considerable variety, with no building characteristic common
to all localities.
Wattle and daub were widely used in constructing small residences in early Ja-
maica. Small flexible woods, such as wild coffee or split bamboo, were used to
Fig. 92. Old picture postcard showing thatch huts in Jamaica
weave the wattle panel, which was plastered over with clay or lime-and-earth
mortar. The latter mixture was preferred, as it was more durable than clay.
Nog construction, a system using a wood framework with masonry infill, was
also prevalent. In England, the word nogging specified brickwork set into a wood 6,
frame. In Jamaica, nogging (or nog) was a generic term, the masonry infill being
Fig. 93. Caribbean "mobile home" (chattel house)
Fig. 94. Veranda detail showing fretwork
Fig. 95. Bungalow, Black River, Jamaica
whatever material was available: brick, stone, or even concrete. Spanish walling
was another name for stone nog, a term presumably retained from the use of this
type of construction during the Spanish era.
In nog construction, an exterior coating-a mixture of one part lime to three
parts earth-was usually applied over the posts and the infill. Whitewash, made
from a mixture of white lime and water, was frequently the final finish to the
wall. Blue color could be achieved by adding washing bluing; finely sieved red
earth produced "red work"; the addition of yellow ochre produced "yellow
work." Nog construction was not restricted to the small residence.
Postslavery days also saw the introduction of the bungalow to Jamaica, in its
simplest version one or two rooms with a gabled roof. The gable end usually
contained the main entrance, frequently with a veranda added. Plan shapes varied
considerably, a T-shape being one favorite. This arrangement allowed a U-
shaped veranda to wrap around the three sides of the front room of the house.
Construction was usually wood frame raised on masonry piers. Much decorative
variation occurred in the design of the veranda railing and in the fascia fretwork.
Small chattel houses were common in Basseterre, and moving the smaller ones
to a new location only required providing four new piers. Gable or hip roofs,
shingled walls, and windows with solid shutters were usually ingredients of these
little buildings. Two-story buildings with living quarters above and commercial
space below also occur in Basseterre.
Fig. 96. Small residences, Basseterre, St. Kitts
Fig. 97. Small residence, St. John's, Antigua
Some instances of "shipbuilding" construction-mortice-and-tenon joints with
wooden pegs to provide the connections-are still found in Antigua. Small res-
idences were frequently raised well off the ground by foundation walls, and typ-
ical Antiguan small residences had horizontal siding on a wood frame, corrugated
iron hip roof, and windows with solid shutters.
At one time, but no longer, the small St. Lucian residence was mobile; the house
is still often raised above the ground on piers. Entry is on the long side, except
64 in the villages, where the gable end may face the street and provide the doorway
THE SMALL BARBADOS
Because of close contacts with the North American colonies, Barbados was the
first Caribbean island to make wide use of the modular dwelling that was devel-
oped in Boston. Its simplest version was one room, measuring three by six
meters. Hip roofs gave way to gables, and the long side of the building faced the
street. A pedimented entrance was flanked by one window on each side in a sym-
metrical arrangement. The solid shutters that were typical in other Caribbean lo-
cations were not used at the windows of Barbadian houses, although hoods were
sometimes present, as were louvered shutters. Decoration, concentrated on the
gable end, usually featured intricate fretwork and the use of color. Houses were
enlarged by adding another similar module on an axis perpendicular to the street.
Still others were added as needed.
The hillsides in St. George's, Grenada, are covered with small modular residences
like the ones in Barbados (see plate 7). Set on pier foundations, these frame build-
ings used horizontal wood siding and gable roofs. Enlargement was usually by
Fig. 98. Small residences, Castries, St. Lucia
Trinidad also used three-by-six-meter modular residences, sometimes supported
by piers or by wood posts set in the ground. The gable roofs often had steeper
slopes than were seen elsewhere in the Caribbean, and shed-roof additions were 65
frequent. The Trinidadian love of elaborate fretwork was evidenced even in these
Fig. 99. Small residences, Bridgetown, Barbados
Fig. Ioo. Small residence, Port of Spain, Trinidad
small structures, and the street facade was symmetrical. Doors and windows were
louvered for ventilation and had transoms above them.
THE SMALL After the British abolished the slave trade in 1807, the Royal Navy would capture
RESIDENCE slave ships sailing through Bahamian waters and free the Africans intended for
slavery. Three communities were established for these people on New Providence
Island, remote from Nassau, and the villages were similar to African settlements.
However, people eventually shifted from these villages to locations closer to
Nassau, primarily to an area south of town that became known as Grant's Town,
after Major General Sir Lewis Grant. Picture postcards of this area from the early
twentieth century show picturesque small stone or wood dwellings with thatched
roofs. Some of the small frame houses were elevated for ventilation.
The thatched roofs are now gone from Grant's Town, but many reminders of
the original settlement remain. The buildings stayed small but occurred in limit-
less variety. Although most are wood frame, stuccoed examples exist. Hip and
gable roofs are covered with wood or asphalt shingles or with corrugated iron.
The gables sometimes face the street, sometimes the side. Verandas are frequent;
colors are vibrant. Many types of windows are in evidence, but some houses con-
tinue to use the traditional solid wood shutters to achieve closure of door and
window openings. These small residences are an important part of Bahamian
Fig. iol. Old picture postcard, small residences in Grant's Town, Bahamas
Early Spanish settlers in Puerto Rico inherited the small residence of the Taino
(Arawaks), which they changed from round, elliptical, or polygonal to rectan-
gular. The term bohio was derived from the Taino word for house and, in its sim- 67
plest form, signified a two-room, timber-frame structure. The walls were con-
structed of cane or the inner bark of palm, and the roofs were thatch. The floor
was usually packed earth or, if raised, was constructed of wood. Eventually PUERTO RICO
Fig. 102. Contemporary small residences, Grant's Town, Bahamas
Fig. 103. Small residences, Ponce, Puerto Rico
deemed inappropriate by the settlers, the bohios were relegated to the lower class
and the poor.
The three-by-three-meter module house probably came to Puerto Rico from
68 Louisiana. It invited considerable variation, for the units could be placed lineally,
or in a square, or in an L shape. The last arrangement was popular, with the open
corner becoming a veranda. The usual construction for the wood-frame building
THE SMALL was a foundation of masonry piers, horizontal siding, windows with solid shut-
RESIDENCE ters, and a gable roof.
As in Puerto Rico, early small Cuban residences were influenced by bohios (see
plate 8). In rural areas, these modest hip-roof thatched structures may still be
seen, although they are no longer typical. Frame buildings with horizontal wood
siding became the norm for small residences. Verandas supported by wood posts
were placed on one or several sides of the building, in response to climatic de-
mands. Clay tile, available locally, was used on the hip, gable, or gabled-hip roofs.
One-story frame row houses occurred in urban areas, located directly on the
property lines, with rejas or solid shutters in the windows on the street side. These
early row houses had high ceilings and sometimes opened onto courtyards at the
The most modest urban dwellings were wood frame with horizontal siding.
Doors were usually solid, although they sometimes had louvers for ventilation.
Fig. 104. Row houses, Regla, Cuba
Fig. 105. Row houses, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Individuality was achieved by color variation, and doors and trim were typically
contrasting colors. In the congested areas of Santo Domingo, row houses usually
had openings onto an interior courtyard as well as onto the street. More recent
small residences have used stuccoed masonry.
Many examples of vernacular small residences exist in Haiti, the poorest having
walls of wattle daubed with mud and roofs of guinea grass or palm thatch. In
some instances, particularly in kitchen areas, the daub was omitted, allowing for
more positive ventilation. Packed-earth floors were sometimes covered with
cement, and raised wood floors were also used. It is customary for the Haitian
male to build a house when he intends to marry, even if it is only a single room
(see plate 9). If more than one room was built, each room usually had its own
entrance, provided with solid shutters or louvers. Color was important, even in
the most modest structure, and decorative cutouts in wood provided an addi-
tional outlet for the designer's exuberance.
Small Martiniquan residences were not mobile but were placed on carefully built
foundations. A practice unique to Martinique was the use of two-foot-high ma-
sonry walls extending around the building, interrupted only by doors and by the
structural corner wood posts, which were carried down to the foundation. Ship-
building techniques traditionally provided the joinery for these wood structures.
The residence facades were usually painted a light color, with contrasting colors
on the low masonry band and on the doors. White was rarely used, except in city
houses. Closure at the openings was accomplished by solid or louvered shutters.
In the early houses, thatch was sometimes used as the roofing material, but tile
70 was also popular.
Fig. Io6. Wattle and thatch dwelling, rural Haiti
Fig. 107. Small urban residences, Fort-de-France, Martinique
Although Guadeloupe also maintained a shipbuilding tradition in house con-
struction, site preparation was entirely unlike Martinique's. The structure often
sat directly on the ground or, on occasion, atop rocks placed under each corner
or wood posts embedded in the ground. The important thing was to maintain
mobility. When it was time to move, the entire small building was loaded onto a
truck and transported to the new site. Prefabricated units three by three meters,
probably imported from the United States, were popular. If these units were used
to enlarge a dwelling, it was important not to destroy the mobility of the struc-
ture. Wood siding and wood shingles were the traditional wall-covering mate-
rials, although sheet metal has become popular. The number of masonry resi-
dences is also steadily increasing. Color and decoration have always been
important considerations in the Guadeloupe residence (see plate 10).
ST. MARTIN/SINT MAARTEN
The general architectural differences between the two sections of the island are
not apparent in small residences. More well-maintained small residences are in
evidence in Dutch Philipsburg than in French Marigot, perhaps because the
Dutch have successfully adapted many small dwellings to tourist shops. In both
countries, the typical small residence is frame with horizontal wood siding or
shingles and a hip roof surfaced with corrugated iron. Solid shutters protect door
and window openings, and a veranda may occur at the entrance. The small res-
idences in Sint Maarten are generally more colorful than those of their French
Fig. Io8. Small residence, Marigot, St. Martin
Fig. 109. Small residence, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Fig. no. Small residence, Scharloo section of Willemstad, CuraCao
Although Curacao is famous for its gables, its small freestanding residences were
frequently built with hip roofs and no overhangs and surfaced with corrugated
iron. Wall construction was usually wood frame with horizontal siding. The en-
trance was on the long side, with no portico to provide entry protection. Solid
Fig. Il. Urban residence, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
wood shutters occurred at windows and doors. Urban residences were usually
one-story, gable-roof row houses, also with shuttered doors and windows. Para-
peted gables, tile roofs, and dormers gave these a Dutch flavor (see plate 11).
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
An 1848 description of a plantation near Frederiksted, St. Croix, mentions a
"negro village of neat little stone houses covered with shingles." This construc-
tion was not usual, however; from early times, small residences were simple
wood-frame structures with shingled or clapboard walls. They were raised off the
ground, and in urban locations masonry steps to the entry were typically sup-
ported by arches over the gutters in front of the house. Roofs were usually
hipped, although gables were occasionally used. Door and window openings
were closed with solid wood shutters.
If space permitted, a porch with shed roof was sometimes added to the front
of the house. It was there that individuality frequently manifested itself in the
design of fretwork. Color choice for the residence was also an important consid-
Small residences of this description are still scattered throughout the U.S.
Virgin Islands, although jalousied windows have frequently been placed in the
The medium-sized residence is the middle- and upper-middle-class residence of
the Caribbean. These houses, frequently two stories high, are comfortable and
spacious but not luxurious. Many of the best truly Caribbean expressions of res-
idential architecture fall in this category.
Falmouth, in Trelawny Parish, is referred to as Jamaica's "Georgian" town. It was
the fashionable location in the eighteenth century for the fine townhouses of
wealthy planters. House plans, as well as details of doors, windows, staircases, and
cornices, were taken from pattern books produced in England.
The Edward Barrett House was built by the wealthy owner of Cinnamon Hill
Plantation in 1799 on Market Street in Falmouth. An open colonnade supports
the overhanging second floor. The lower part of the house is cut stone, with
wood frame construction above. Wrought-iron railings originally occurred on all
of the second-story triple-hung windows, with interior folding louver shutters
for privacy. Adam-style detailing was used extensively on the interior.
The Town House, on Church Street in Montego Bay, is an eighteenth-cen-
tury Georgian house whose design now completely denies its location in the
tropics. It has experienced a variety of tenants. For a time, it was a small hotel;
then a synagogue occupied its second floor. For the next fifty years it was a Ma-
sonic lodge. A complete restoration in 1967 removed the wooden veranda added
in an attempt to suit the building to the Jamaican climate. The stucco was also
removed at that time, exposing the original red brick and white stone quoins.
The lower level now houses a restaurant.
The Althenheim House, on King Street in Spanish Town, was built about
1760. It has Flemish bond brickwork, with dentil stringcourse and a parapet with
coping and dentils. Pedimented coolers were added at the windows when these
came into fashion in the mid-nineteenth century. The house is a good example
of Georgian, with a rectangular plan and a formal and symmetrical front facade.
A pedimented portico protects the entrance. The building now serves as a secre-
Fig. 112. Barrett House, 1799, in Falmouth, the "Georgian" town of Jamaica
Fig. 113. The Town House, Montego Bay, Jamaica, eighteenth-century Georgian
An eighteenth-century house on White Church Street, Spanish Town, has a
major central hipped section, with projections front and rear. The brick is laid
up in Flemish bond, and wood shingles are used on the roof. Entrance is through
a walled garden. Hoods protect the windows on the south side. The symmetrical
front elevation has jalousies in combination with sliding-sash windows.
Fig. 114. Georgian-style Althen-
heim House, ca. 176o, Spanish
Fig. u5. Eighteenth-century house on White Church Street, Spanish Town, Jamaica
Fig. 116. Invercauld, 1894, Black River, Jamaica, typical turn of the century wealthy merchant's home
Fig. 117. Presbytery, Basseterre, St. Kitts
Invercauld, built in Black River in 1894, was typical of the elegant turn-of-
the-century waterfront homes built on High Street by well-to-do merchants.
This timber structure was assembled primarily from precut components shipped
onto the island. Its design included decorative gables, bay windows, intricate fret-
work, balusters, and coolers. The house fell into serious disrepair but was rescued
in an adaptive-use restoration in 1990 that added wings and turned it into a guest
The Georgian House Restaurant, Basseterre, originally an eighteenth-century
residence, is symmetrical except for the arched doorway on the left of the front
facade (see plate 12). A central Palladian window occurs on the upper level, with
a broken pediment above the first-floor entrance. Sidelights, a transom, and a
fanlight grace the entrance. The house has a hip roof, stone stringcourse, flush
quoins, and flat arches at the windows.
One of the most handsome residences in Basseterre is the Presbytery, next to
the Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral. The house has a hip roof with a nine-bay
upper veranda that relates to the five unequal bays of the lower level. The ground
level is constructed of stone, the upper portion of horizontal siding on wood
St. John's has a number of residences that resemble the Georgian architecture
built along the Atlantic coastline in the North American colonies in the mid-
eighteenth century. Familiar ingredients are the hip roof; two-story, wood-frame
construction; and formal front facade, symmetrical about a central entrance. The
double-hung windows have louvered shutters.
A number of Dutch sugar planters came to Barbados in the mid-seventeenth
century. The Nicholls Building, about 1700, is probably the oldest surviving
townhouse in Bridgetown, and its distinctive curvilinear gables indicate its Dutch
heritage. Stone quoins occur at its corners.
Fig. i18. "Caribbean Georgian" residence, St. John's, Antigua
Fig. 19. Nicholls Building,
ca. 1700, probably the
oldest townhouse in
Fig. 12o. Townhouses, Bay Street, Bridgetown, Barbados, with unique Barbadian urban characteristics
Fig. 121. The Grotto, typical Bridgetown, Barbados, suburban house, built in the second half of the nine-
Characteristics unique to Barbadian urban architecture can be seen on two in-
teresting townhouses, Lynton and Carlisle View, on Bay Street in Bridgetown.
The corners of the buildings are rounded, and in front elevation, the parapets,
with their concave curves at the ends, have been given the name "Barbadian
parapets" and are reputed to provide protection to the roof during high winds.
Their curves relate somewhat to the side rooflines of the projecting verandas
below. Lynton and Carlisle View reportedly were built by sea captains at mid-
The Grotto, on River Road in Bridgetown, was built in the second half of the
nineteenth century and is typical of suburban houses of this era in and around the
town. It is symmetrical, with double stairs leading to the main upper level. A
single Demarara shutter is attached to the bottom of the pediment of the portico
and at the windows on the sides of the house.
Villa Franca, in Hastings, another symmetrical residence, has an elaborate
double stair to a landing, then a single stair to the entrance portico (see plate 13).
Above the arcaded lower veranda is a front gallery enclosed by jalousies and sash
windows. The parapet along the front edge of the hip roof does not have the
concave curves of the Barbadian parapet.
Because Grenada was alternately a colony of Britain and of France, its architec-
ture is a blend of both traditions. Many existing fish-scale tile roofs and ornate
iron balconies attest to the persistence of the French tradition.
Fig. 122. Sedan porch
residences (on the left),
used in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries
in St. George's, Grenada
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sedan porches were built at
the fronts of residences to shelter passengers embarking or disembarking from
sedan chairs, a frequently used mode of transport at the time. The sheltered entry
of sedan chairs was accomplished by leaving the porches open on either side.
George Brown, who came from Scotland in 1883, was responsible for much of
the rebuilding required after the disastrous Port of Spain fire in 1895. His intro-
duction of the cast-iron frame to shops on Frederick Street transformed the char-
acter of this part of town. He also mass produced fretwork and other building or-
naments that became popular in residential construction. His own house, on
Queen's Park West, is refrained symmetry with embellishments, including metal
cresting and pinnacles. Brown went back to Scotland in 1921.
The Boissiere House, also on Queen's Park West, Port of Spain, was designed
by Edward Bowen and built in 1904 for the owners of large cocoa plantations
(see plate 14). Its heavy ornamentation disguises its relatively simple concrete-
block construction. The steeply pitched roof is covered with green slate, and the
Fig. 123. Early twentieth-century home of architect George Brown, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Fig. 124. French influence, Port of Spain, Trinidad
large dormer gable is one of Trinidad's finest examples of fretwork. An entire
Chinese pavilion is included in one of the projecting galleries.
At the corner of Oxford Street and St. Vincent, in Port of Spain, a house with
a mansard roof and dormers is an example of French influence in Trinidad. This
suburban residence has a veranda on two sides, with a pedimented portico at the
Fig. 125. Typical medium-sized residence, Port of Spain, Trinidad
A residence on Gordon Street, Port of Spain, demonstrates several details typ-
ical of many Trinidad residences. The two symmetrical projecting "bay window"
forms continue up to the eaves of gable roofs whose slopes become more shallow
at the point of overhang. Brackets help accomplish this somewhat complicated
juncture of walls and roof. The projecting isolated central entrance portico, with
considerable ornamentation, is of shallower slope than the major gables but also
has a still shallower slope for its overhang. Pinnacles adorn the ridge points of the
The Deanery, about 1710, on Cumberland Street in Nassau, is probably the
oldest residence in the Bahamas (see plate 15). The latticed verandas on the street
(east) side are its most dominant design characteristic, and in the original design
these occurred on the north and west elevations as well. The roof is a square hip,
wood shingled, with a cupola. A separate building contains the kitchen, with its
fireplace and domed brick oven. The outhouse known as the "Slaves' Quarters"
has, on its north and west elevations, loopholes in lieu of windows.
Balcony House, on Market Street in Nassau, is a two-story frame house built
of American soft cedar, ca. 1790. Its careful detailing indicates that it was prob-
ably built by ships' carpenters. The second-floor balcony, which overhangs the
street, is supported by wooden "knees." The street elevation is asymmetrical,
with clapboard siding and shuttered windows. An interior staircase is believed to
have been taken from a ship. There are a number of outbuildings on the property.
Magna Carta Court is outstanding as one of the few exposed-stone houses in
Nassau, and its surfaces may have originally been stuccoed. The street facades are
without decoration, and the roof is a simple hip. Flat arches are employed over the
84 window openings, which have hinged shutters at the sides. This house reverses
the typical arrangement and places the wall of wood louvers on the rear of the
building instead of on the street side.
Fig. 126. Balcony House, ca. 179o, Nassau, Bahamas, with detailing by ships' carpenters
Fig. 127. Magna Carta Court, one of the few exposed-stone houses in Nassau, Bahamas
._ ,... o 5 ,*(I.~
Residences in Old San Juan are completely urban in character, constructed right
to the sidewalk, frequently with shops at ground level. The upper levels were re-
lated to the street activity via handsome iron or wood balconies. Door and
window openings on the street facade were trimmed with rather severe mould-
ings, usually painted white. Colonnades or arcades surrounded the inner court-
yards, where family activities took place.
Fig. 128. Rear of Magna Carta Court
Fig. 128. Rear of Magna Carta Court
Fig. 129. Typical townhouses, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
The charm of Ponce is quite different from that of Old San Juan. In 1820, a
fire destroyed most of the town, and the governor ordered that the rebuilt houses
be set farther apart, making the town much less congested than San Juan. Ponce
is well known for its single-family homes, which present delightful individuality
and high style even when modest in scale, a combination of rococo and neoclas-
Font-Ubides (Monsanto) Mansion, 1912, on Calle Villa in Ponce, has delicate
detailing and the typical raised floor level, with twin projecting round porches
whose roofs are supported by Corinthian columns (see plate 16). Arch-headed
doorways lead into the residence.
Villaronga, also built in 1912 in Ponce, was the home and studio of architect
Alfredo B. Weichers. Its most eye-catching detail is the open round colonnade
on the roof. An ornate parapet, swags, and various reliefs ornament this neoclas-
Old Havana has changed little for centuries and was classified as a world heritage
site by UNESCO in 1982. As in Puerto Rico, the Spanish colonists in Havana
constructed their homes around lushly planted central patios.
House of the Arabs is a typical sixteenth-century, two-story urban house
whose street elevation is plain except for a second-floor wood balcony extending
the length of the building. Matching wood rejas protect the windows at street
level. The interior courtyard is surrounded by a second-floor balcony onto
which the rooms open. A grapevine trellis filters the sunlight into this area. One
room in the House of the Arabs serves as Havana's only mosque.
The little town of San Miguel has a good collection of one-story, wood-frame
residences, typically with high ceilings, raised floors, and generous wrap-around
porches. The low-sloping roofs are covered with red tile.
Similar houses are found in Varadero, on the north coast. This small town
became a popular resort area at the turn of the century, and many substantial
medium-sized residences were constructed here at that time.
Fig. 130. House of the Arabs, typical sixteenth-
century two-story urban house, Havana, Cuba
Fig. 131. Interior courtyard, House of the Arabs
Fig. 132 Typical one-story wood-frame residence San Miguel Cuba
Fig. I32. Typical one-story, wood-frame residence, San Miguel, Cuba
Fig. 133. Typical residence design, Varadero, Cuba
Fig. 134. Two-story beach house, Varadero, Cuba
Tostado House, in Santo Domingo, was built in the sixteenth century for Fran-
cisco del Tostado, the first native professor at the first university in the New
World, who lived here until he was killed by one of the bombs thrown by Drake's
British troops in 1586. One of the last two-story residences built in Old Santo
Domingo, it is a composition in stone, brick, and stucco, with unexpected
Gothic tracery in an opening above the entrance. The subsequent advent of one-
Fig. 135. Tostado House, sixteenth century,
one of the last two-story residences built in
Old Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Fig. 136. Typical mixed-occupancy urban building, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
story residences here may have resulted from a decline in urban population,
which led to a land surplus. Tostado House now houses a museum.
Later Santo Domingo has a number of two-story buildings that accommodate
housing on the upper level above commercial spaces at street level. Generous
doors from the residential spaces open onto upper balconies, and the buildings
are frequently embellished with Spanish Renaissance details.
In the scorched-earth military strategy employed in Haiti's struggle for indepen-
dence, most of the island's eighteenth-century architecture was destroyed. Much
delightful and unusual turn-of-the-century residential architecture in Port-au-
Prince, however, dates from 1880 to 1920 and demonstrates amazing imagina-
tion and fancy, primarily in unexpected roof forms dominated by steeply sloped
"spires." This architecture is thought to have resulted from the influence of the
Paris Colonial Exposition of 1890, where pavilions and pagodas from the East
Indies were on exhibition. Corrugated iron is currently the usual roof material,
although some examples of slate roofs still exist. Building construction is fre-
quently brick nog, with complicated placement of the half-timber elements.
Roof overhangs and balconies are supported by wood brackets, and ornamental
turned wood and fretwork occur often. Solid shutters typically provide closure
at the windows.
Fig. 137. House on Avenue J. B. Lalue, Port-au-
Fig. 138. Typical turn-of-the-century urban
residence, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Mixed occupancy is also a characteristic of congested urban areas in Haiti,
where residential units occur above commercial spaces. Living areas open onto
upper balconies, and solid shutters are provided to cover all openings.
Fig. 139. Medium-sized residence, Port-
Fig. 14o. Mixed-occupancy urban building, Cap Haitien, Haiti