1907 Quake

Published: 14 January 2007 | 2 comments

Today, January 14th, is the centenary for the 1907 Great Kingston Earthquake and Fire and while I wasn’t there at the time (obviously I’m not that old…not even close), I had the opportunity to see an exhibition in commemoration of that day held at the Institute of Jamaica.

There were a few speeches from the curators and other distinguished guests in which they spoke of the reports of the earthquake and the effects it had on the island and the city of Kingston. They also mentioned the fact that after the event it sparked a change/revision to the building codes for the city. Once the speeches were completed the exhibition was officially opened for all to see.

They carried you through a timeline of sorts, showing what the area that was affected looked like before, during and after the earthquake. It was essentially a collection of photographs that were taken and drawings people had done with quotes from persons who had experienced the event. It was quite well put together and for someone who was never there it gave me a bit of insight into the events of that day.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any photos while the event as I only found out when I got to the IOJ that we were going to see the exhibition, but here are some photos of the pamphlet along with an excerpt from the message inside.

Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3

Monday January 14, 1907, and Kingston was about its relentless daily hustle and bustle, a commercial city at the start of a new week…at 3:30 p.m a loud rumbling in the distance became the terrifying roar as massive earth tremors tore through the city for thirty seconds, ripping apart homes, office, roads and businesses. A huge fire followed, sweeping through the already stricken town
...Kingston lay in ruins…
The Great Kingston Earthquake caused the deaths of over one thousand person and destroyed much of the commercial district of the city. Kingston was changed forever.

If you’re not Jamaican you may also be interested to know that Kingston was not always the capital of Jamaica. The capital used to be Port Royal, but, in 1692 another earthquake also cased the destruction of Port Royal leaving nearly two thirds (2/3) of that town submerged and resulted in over three thousand (3000) casualties. Since Kingston was basically right next to Port Royal it soon became the new capital of Jamaica.

I’m not normally that interested in history but after today it made me think that it wouldn’t hurt and in fact it would be quite good to learn a little more about the history of this beautiful island Jamaica. Perhaps I could even look through some of my old high school History books again to refresh my memory.

Peace and God bless.



gravatar Tony Taylor — 16 January 2007

It’s curious that you say the exhibition awakened your interest in the history of Jamaica. I visited the exhibition yesterday and felt much the same way. Kingston prior to 1907 seemed a much more beautiful place than what has replaced it, and it is a pity that it had to take a centennary remembrance to awaken that interest.
Interestingly, the institute seems to have no plans to make these images readily accessible,for instance on a special website. Many of the photos, I understand, came from private collections and will no doubt be returned to where they came from when the exhibition closes.
Because of this, and the fact that a sign on the door expressly forbid the taking of photos, I have no souvenirs even for my own private viewing pleasure. And trust me, I was very impressed by the old markets, the railway station,the courthouse,even the map which showed a burial ground at the top of Darling Street(I believe that is where Coronation market now is)

gravatar Yannick (Author) — 17 January 2007

Yeah I have to agree with you Tony, it certainly did look more beautiful then, than now.

I’m not quite sure and I could be wrong but I did hear that they might maybe make a catalogue of sorts available at some point. So I guess we will have to keep listening to hear if and when that will come out.

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