Black River

Waterloo House

Waterloo House

Parish: St.Elizabeth

All those parts and parcels of land situated along both sides of High Street from the property registered at Volume 117 f olio 42 to the most easterly point of High Street at the Bridge which crosses over the Black River and all those parts and parcels of land and structures thereon situated along both sides of Crane Road. These properties include the Magdala House, the Invercauld Hotel, the St. Elizabeth Parish Library, the Black River Court House, the Public Works Office, the Parish Council Office, the Health Centre, the Catholic Church, the Black River High School, the Black River Post Office, the St. John's Anglican Church, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Revenue Office, the Black River Safari, and all the buildings and warehouses situated along the coastal side of High Street and those situated between the eastern banks of the Black River and Crane Road. The Black River area also incorporates all those parts and parcels of land and structures thereon situated within the follow within following boundaries: the eastern boundary which starts at the intersection of High Street and Market Street continuing north-easterly up Riverside Drive to the northern boundary being the continuation of Riverside Drive in a north-westerly direction on to Brigade Street up to where it meets Logwood Avenue and North Street, and continuing northerly along Central Road until it meets the western boundary which begins at the intersection of Central Road and School Street continuing southerly along School Street and also incorporating all those properties along the western side of School Street and continuing in a southerly direction to the southern boundary which begins at the intersection of School Street and High Street and continues in an easterly direction to the beginning of the eastern boundary.

Finally, the Black River area also incorporates all those parts and parcels of land and structures there on located between the western banks of tile Black River, and Market Street and Riverside Drive respectively, and in particular those with warehouses situated thereon.

The town of Black River, established close to the banks of the river after which it is named, is one of the oldest in the island. The exact date of its establishment is not known but John Sellers' 1685 map of Jamaica identified its existence. The town itself is quaint and beautiful, looking as it does southward, toward the shimmering blue Caribbean Sea.
Black River was designed by the Leyden brothers of England, three wealthy men who were substantial land proprietors in the area. Today, it is nothing like the busy seaport town it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the area prospered from the lucrative logwood trade, exports of rum, pimento and cattle skin garnered from nearby Holland, Vineyard and Fullerswood Estates.

The town itself, because of its port, was vital to the slave trade. Slaves were brought here and sold at auction at Farquharson Wharf, originally called the 'Town Wharf', which is still standing.

Over time, the town grew in size and importance and in 1773, it replaced Lacovia, located some 19 miles to the east-north-east, as the capital of St. Elizabeth. It soon became the main commercial, economic and transhipment centre of the parish. By the early 1900's the town was second only to Kingston, the national capital, in importance.

The growing economic wealth of Black River was evident in the development of a number of warehouses which are still seen in the town today, which are being used as restaurants or headquarters for one of the operators offering tours up the ecologically rich river with its swirling dark waters.

A new feature of the town was the construction of merchant town houses. The first floor of these buildings was used for shops and the second for dwelling. It is not surprising therefore, that Black River was the first town in Jamaica to have electricity which was supplied by the Leyden brothers in 1893. Power was generated from a plant which had a huge furnace and boiler. Logwood, which was a major export of the parish, was used to generate steam from the engine which provided the power.

The town has many important historic sites and structures and the buildings are of varying architectural styles. You will find examples of Georgian, Jamaican Georgian, British Colonial and Jamaican Vernacular architectural styles. The predominant ones however, are Georgian and Victorian, which reflect the different periods in the history of the town's development.

Some of these buildings, particularly those to the western and northern sections of the town are wooden structures. These generally have characteristic features, built to take advantage of the cool winds, of wide verandahs, sash windows, jalousies and fretwork.

Invercauld Great House, now transformed into a hotel, is probably the most imposing wooden Georgian building on the western side of the town. The buildings on the eastern side are made predominantly of brick and mortar and the hotel itself faces calm, blue sea.

Other buildings in the town are made of stone. These include the warehouses, the Anglican church, and the Offices of the Jamaica Tourist Board, located upstairs the Historic Hendricks Building building on the banks of the Black River.

On April 8th, 1999, the town of Black River was designated a Protected National Heritage District by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The heritage district is bounded by High Street, Crane Road, Logwood Avenue, North Street, Central Road, School Street, the western banks of the Black River, Market Street and Riverside Drive.

Many renowned Jamaicans are associated with the town. These include Robert Munro and Caleb Dickenson whose bequest was used to establish Munro College and Hampton High School, two of the more traditional secondary high schools in Jamaica. Two plaques are in the Parish Church to commemorate their memories.

Also associated with the town was National Hero George William Gordon, who it is said, spent his early years there being tutored.

The Black River Spa
The Black River Spa previously known as the Black River Mineral Springs has been a popular attraction since the Eighteenth Century. Its popularity arose because of its alleged medicinal properties. It is believed that the owner of the then Lower Works Estate on which the mineral spring was located, used it regularly to treat certain ailments such as rheumatism and intestinal troubles among his slave population. In the 1920s and 1930s the spa had become very popular with its many baths for visitors. Today the spa is in a state of disrepair.

Black River Anglican Church
Known as the parish church, this beautiful brick edifice built in 1837 is located at the corner of High and North Streets. The remains of the original church built in 1774 are still visible at the site. Interred in the churchyard are many noted individuals who helped to shape the course and fortune of the parish.

Waterloo House
This house is believed to have been originally owned by the Shakespeare family who were thought to be related to the famous playwright, William Shakespeare. John Leyden, a Scotsman, who subsequently owned it, brought the first car and the first electricity generator to Black River and Jamaica. Waterloo house was the first residence in Jamaica to have electricity. . A plaque at this historic house trumpets this accomplishment. Located on High Street, it is one of the oldest of its kind in Black River.

Magdala House
This house was built in the late nineteenth century. It was constructed by Adolphus Williams for Tom Leyden, who with partner William Farguharson of Leyden and Farquharson Shipping Company, were two of the richest men in Jamaica in the mid 1880s. The house is a two-storey Victorian building decorated with fretwork.

Invercauld Great House
Located on High Street, Invercauld is a fine example of late Jamaica Georgian Architecture. It is a reminder of Black River's prosperity a century ago, when logwood and shipping brought wealth to the town. It is presently used as a hotel.

The Black River
The Black River was for years believed to be the longest river in Jamaica until recent research reveals that this position is held by the Rio Minho which is 92.8 km long. It was originally called Rio Caobana (Mahogany River) by the Spaniards. It is a habitat for the Jamaican Crocodile and is used for fishing and river boat tours by nature lovers.

The Black River Safari
The Safari offers visitors an exciting six-mile trip up the Black River to see its wildlife and complex ecosystem. The mangroves that grow close to the banks of the river are a haven for over 100 species of birds, crabs, fishes, frogs, crocodiles and other wildlife.

The Safari package offers lunch and a trip to the Y.S. Falls. During the trip the tour guide gives information on the history and ecology of the area.

The Black River Hospital
The Black River Hospital also has its own place in the history of the town. A section of the hospital occupies the building that was once used as the Military Barracks.

The Black River Court House
This historic Georgian structure dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century. In addition to the Court House, it also houses the offices of the Parish Council.





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