From Port Royal to New Kingston
An adaptation of an article by Yara-Nee Dennis titled The History of New Kingston
During the 17 century Port Royal was Jamaica’s centre of trade and largest residential area. In 1692 tragedy struck when a massive earthquake destroyed most of Port Royal. Its residents had little desire to rebuild on the narrow spit. They chose instead to rebuild the city on lands across the harbour, known as the Liguanea Plain.
At that time Liguanea Plain had only 8 or 9 houses on 530 acres of land.
Kingston was established by the harbour of Liguanea Plains and grew with a steady flow of migrants. In January 1907 there was another tragic earthquake, swiftly followed by catastrophic fires that halted the city’s expansion. Much of downtown Kingston was destroyed. Approximately 1500 people died and over a million dollars’ worth of property damage incurred.
For many years downtown Kingston did not fully recover from this tragedy, as merchants looked elsewhere to establish a new 20th century commercial zone. These merchants who previously lived above their business places in central Kingston, relocated to the upper circle of the Liguanea plains, popularly called “uptown”.
A part of uptown was Knutsford Park Racetrack. It was 85 acres of land between Knutsford Boulevard and Oxford Road. There horse racing and polo matches were held. When the racetrack closed in the mid-sixties, the land became a large, dusty vacant lot on which learner drivers practiced.
The Knutsford Park Racetrack was later purchased by a conglomerate of businessmen who envisioned this as the “city, built within a city”, hence the name New Kingston.
Here are a few images of New Kingston.