February 20, 2024

Cayman Islands: Pedro St James – A living monument

By Latara Boodie From Jamiaca Gleaner

One of the oldest and most innovative depictions of 19th century European architecture, can be seen in the most perennial building in the Cayman Islands The Pedro St James Castle. The historical gem was built in 1801 and is located just 20 minutes from George Town. The Pedro St James Castle is a living monument of the rich history of the Cayman Islands.

Upon arriving to the massive three-storey structure, one can observe the vast mahogany embellished verandas wrapping around each level of the stone building. The architecture is enhanced with grand shuttered windows and slate imported from England to adorn the roof and floors. Each stone was laid by slaves brought to the Cayman Islands from Jamaica. “It was the slaves that built this great building, and it towered over all the houses that were surrounding it at the time,” said tour guide Stacy Eden Hurlston. The building itself consists of mahogany furniture which are over 200 years old, and have withstood the many adversities endured by the property.

During the time of its development, the Cayman Islands was no more than an elaborately developed fishing village with just over 500 persons inhabiting the islands. Englishman William Eden built the great house using slave labour, and used the surrounding land as a plantation. “Since its construction more than two centuries ago, Pedro St James has been put to a variety of uses, including a courthouse, jail, government assembly and restaurant. Surviving hurricanes, fires, vandalism, and rumours of being jinxed, it stands today, in its restored state, as a dynamic piece of Caymanian heritage,” said Hurlston.

Pedro St James lies within the heart of the Caymanian Government, as many of the country’s laws and government official meetings were held there. “Pedro St James was the venue for a meeting on December 5, 1831, where the decision was made to form the first elected parliament. Later, on 3 May 1835, Robert Thompson, sent from the Governor of Jamaica, held court at Pedro St James to issue the proclamation ending slavery in the British Empire,” said Hurlston.

Stacy Eden Hurlston

Like the castle, Stacy Eden Hurlston is a gem in his own right as he witnessed the history of the Cayman Islands from the door steps of Pedro St James.

The 71-year-old, is the son of Caroline Hurlston, the granddaughter of Joseph and Samuel Eden, who was born in Pedro St James in 1910. Twelve years ago, after residing in Canada for years, he decided to return to Cayman to become a tour guide for his family’s property, and provide visitors with the rich history of the Cayman Islands. The historian is proud of his family’s history as he recalls the events he experienced as a young boy on the property. Each room had a unique story Hurlston could recall at the drop of a hat. “I was there so it is easy for me to remember, and I have also heard the stories told to me by my mother,” he told Outlook. With Hurlston as tour guide, the greathouse is transformed into a time capsule which allows you to go back in time to experience Cayman the way it was when it was just a fishing village.

The historical building not only encompasses Caymanian history, but also Jamaica’s history, as Jamaica was the sole caretaker of Cayman. Many Government officials assigned to Jamaica were also in charge of Cayman’s welfare.

After a severe fire in the 1970s and buffeted by back-to-back hurricanes. The building stood vacant for several years. It was not until 1991 that the property was bought by the Caymanian government, and developed as a historical site. Pedro St James is not only a beautiful location within the Cayman Islands, but a bountiful source for the colourful history of Cayman.

ALL IMAGES: Ricardo Makyn

Pedro St. James Castle, Pedro St. James, or Pedro’s Castle is the oldest existing building in the Cayman Islands. Located on the southern coast of Grand Cayman Island, the manor is a reconstruction of an original 1780 house, and the home of plantation owner William Eden.
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