Mercantile legacies : nineteenth-century merchant houses in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas & Falmouth, Jamaica

Klepper, Katherine Dana, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard Guy, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Brewer, David, University of Virginia

Drawing from the stories of the Caribbean as a "land of rum drinking planters, terrific hurricanes and earthquakes," leads most to conclude that the Caribbean islands, stretching from the southern tip of Florida to Venezuela, were a place unfit for the faint of heart. However, for those that could find their way, great fortune and success was theirs to be made in the trade industry. While planter's great houses still dot the landscape, not much remains of the merchant's legacy in the Caribbean; the pirates have become cruise ship passengers, and rum drinking planters have become rum drinking beach goers. And while so much seems to have changed between then and now, many of the nineteenth-century merchant houses that once lined the main market streets of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas and Falmouth in Jamaica still remain, standing as the last remaining tribute to a colonial trading empire. Merchants built these houses and commercial spaces to withstand the temperamental Caribbean environment, and provide a functional yet cosmopolitan space to live and work. Buildings such as 2 Dronningens Gade in Charlotte Amalie, with its beautifully proportioned facade, rusticated masonry commercial first floor and delicate wrought iron balcony, extending out over the street below, should serve as a reminder to tourists and scholars alike that these buildings were designed to communicate both elegance and functionality in the same breath. Unlike simple warehouses or elite residences, these urban dwellings existed in a plane somewhere in between; simultaneously home to both store goods and the merchant family, the story of the merchant house begins with the establishment of the colonial trading empire.

MA (Master of Arts)
Jamaica, Caribbean, St. Thomas, nineteenth century merchant houses

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:54.

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