Echoes of the privileged lifestyles of wealthy aristocrats living in the Caribbean during the Victorian Age can be found throughout our islands. Preserved or restored mansions and sugar plantations bear witness to a gilded age of island life reserved almost exclusively for white Europeans.
Devon House in Jamaica, though, is different.
Constructed in 1891 on what was then a 51-acre estate in the heart of Kingston, Devon House remains today as it was back then one of the most stately and revered buildings in all of Jamaica.
The last surviving of three elaborate private homes built in the late-19th century at the intersection of Hope and Trafalgar, a crossroads formerly and fittingly known as “Millionaire’s Corner,” Devon House espouses a uniquely Jamaican-Gregorian style with Creole elements artfully infused into the classical construction to best adapt Old World elegance to the tropical Jamaican climate.
Inside, a mix of genuine antique and reproduction Jamaican, British, and French furnishings and art pieces further whisk you back in time, offering a true sense of life among the elite in West Indian society at the time.
The difference at Devon House, though, is that this was no white (man’s) house.
This was the home of George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire.
A self-made man in every way, Stiebel was the son of a black housekeeper and a German-Jewish merchant. He dropped out of school at age 14 due to incessant bullying over his mixed race, eventually turning a modest loan from his father into a fortune built on shipping and trade, most notably of gold in Venezuela. This followed episodes of gun-running to Cuba and his surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Venezuela.
(Read the full story of Stiebel’s uncommon life here.)
The peaceful gardens and stately lawns of the now 11-acre Devon House Estate of today do not hint in the slightest at Stiebel’s turbulent past. It’s an oasis in the heart of a bustling city; a place to go and sit in the shade beneath an ancient tree, feel the breeze caressing your face, and live richly… if only just for awhile.
It’s also the prime place to get and enjoy Devon House I Scream.
Jamaica’s finest ice cream and easily among the very best cold and creamy treats I’ve ever sampled anywhere, Devon House I Scream is available throughout Jamaica, but best enjoyed here at its source.
We’ll have a lot more to say about the 27 amazing flavors of Devon House I Scream in the future. For now, be sure to visit Devon House online for more on what makes this mansion a must experience in Jamaica’s capital.
*Lead photo credit: Flickr user Stéphane DAMOUR.