By Donald Callum
PORT ANTONIO, Jamaica -- The Portland Heritage Foundation, a
coalition of business people and residents here, is working to
preserve the area's historical heritage.
According to Earl Levy, a member of the foundation's board and
owner of the Trident Villas and Castle resort, the group's aims are
"the preservation and renovation of the existing historical and
traditional structures that remain on the Titchfield peninsula, in
particular, and in greater Port Antonio, in general." Levy said the
group intends to promote Port Antonio as an alternative tourist
destination to the "Big Two" of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
The foundation consists of more than 35 people who represent a
spectrum of the population of the Parish of Portland, where Port
Antonio is situated. Among them are hoteliers, residents, business
people, educators, journalists, artists and politicians from both
of Jamaica's main political parties.
Located on the Titchfield peninsula are 40 homes and the
250-year-old Fort George, which has 10-foot-thick walls, spinning
turrets for cannons, a massive steel-and-brick barracks and a
Georgian powder house. "We would like to see a Jamaican
'Williamsburg' here in Port Antonio where you can see some of the
past preserved for future generations to enjoy," Levy said.
The fort is the cornerstone of the foundation's efforts. Guarded
by a trust left by the previous owners, it is basically intact and
houses the Titchfield School. The fort is to be declared a National
Heritage Trust site.
All buildings on the Titchfield peninsula are eligible for
consideration for renovation, although the emphasis at first will
be on those owned by the Jamaican government and the Titchfield
Trust. The trust, which owns at least 15 of these properties, uses
income generated by these properties to support the Titchfield
The Port Antonio Courthouse, located at the foot of the
peninsula, already is a National Heritage Trust site as is the
DeMontevin Lodge, a 100-year-old brick hotel and restaurant located
on the peninsula. Similar structures, built in Georgian, Jamaican
vernacular, Victorian and Caribbean "gingerbread" styles, have
continued to disappear from the Jamaican landscape, both here and
elsewhere on the island.
The long-term goal of the preservation project is to provide
much-needed employment in the area by boosting the sagging local
tourist industry, Levy said. Although local donors have raised
money for the preservation of several sites, the trust is seeking
funding from a variety of sources.