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Entering Devon House is like stepping into the past. A very charming and glamorous past to be sure, but for so many, a classist and very difficult period. More than anything, the story of Devon House represents a symbol of determination and success.
Devon House is one of the finest examples of the Jamaican-vernacular style of architecture — a mixture of Creole and Georgian styles adapted to the tropical climate. This beautifully restored mansion, the only one standing from that era, is the dream come true of George Stiebel, the son of a housekeeper and a merchant. Despite his humble beginnings, Stiebel showed perseverance in his young adult life, and before long he made a name for himself as a contractor. After accumulating wealth from different investments and enterprises, he purchased a considerable number of properties in Jamaica. Among them were 53 acres of land from the St. Andrew Parish. In 1881 he built Devon House on the foundation of the church rectory.
Today, visitors to Devon House enter the development through the courtyard shops. Once the Stiebel’s servant quarters, the red brick and latticework buildings now house boutiques, curio shops, and souvenir stores among famous Jamaican-food restaurants.
Upon entering the main house, the magnificent collection of Jamaican, Caribbean, English, and French antiques — including one of the finest collections of antique mahogany furniture in the world — is absolutely dazzling. Right at the entrance, the mansion’s Palm Hall, created to add a tropical touch to the interior, succeeds in inviting the visitor to further explore this architectural relic.
The Great Ball Room has many of its original features, including the English chandelier purchased by Stiebel himself and the floral ceiling decorations. A ticking 200-year clock in the dining room and some of Stiebel family possessions in the different bedrooms can still be seen today.
After Stiebel’s daughter Theresa died in 1923, the ownership of Devon House changed hands a couple of times. In 1965, the Government of Jamaica, under the National Trust Act stopped developers from demolishing the house. That same year the process of restoring the 19th-century mansion and its grounds to its original greatness was initiated.
Named a National Monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) in September 1990, Devon House is today one of the leading tourist attractions in Kingston.
You can see more images of Devon House in the Destination Jamaica Gallery.