500-year-old heritage site to provide a new experience

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500-year-old heritage site to provide a new experience

Friday, February 28, 2020

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JAMAICANS and overseas visitors to Fort Charles in the historic town of Port Royal, Kingston, which boasts over 500 years of history, will get a new experience.

Through the efforts of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) and other government agencies, Fort Charles was reopened to the public on Monday.

The restoration of Fort Charles is part of the Port Royal Development Plan, which aims to transform the historic town into a thriving centre for tourism. The redevelopment plan also includes the newly constructed cruise ship terminal, building of a museum, among other works.

Fort Charles was built in the late 1650s — 60s and underwent several changes between 1656 and 1670. In 1667 the fort had 36 guns and by 1765, it had 104 guns and a garrison with 500 men.

“We worked feverishly to complete what we describe as the new Fort Charles experience, which was available to the public as well as the tourists on February 24,” assistant vice-president of marketing and communications at the PAJ Kimberley Stiff told JIS News.

Stiff said that Fort Charles will be revitalised with additional features, including an officers' quarters, a magazine — where ammunition and gun powder are stored — a new ticket booth, and a merchandise shop.

The fort will also feature the 17th-century history and mystique of Port Royal, a historic museum, the Victoria Battery, along with external displays such as cannons and other replicas.

There is also a new Giddy House, a lopsided building built in 1888 and which served as the old Royal Artillery Store for the Victoria Battery.

It was named Giddy House since individuals entering the building often feel a strange giddy sensation or seem off balance, caused by the building's tilt. Stiff said that the new Giddy House would be adjacent to the original.

“We are trying to preserve it, so we have a replica made beside it. There is also a new ticket booth as well as a souvenir shop,” she said.

Other attractions to be introduced include a Port Royal Museum, a live archaeological dig, a pirate wharf, and the Sunken City Museum.

Stiff said the PAJ has been working with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), throughout the refurbishing process, so as to ensure the preservation of artefacts.

“The preservation of the artefacts was done in conjunction with the JNHT. The agency served as a guide… anything that has to do with the historical aspect, they are involved,” she added.

Further, Stiff stated that activities at the fort will focus on the time placement of 1807 to help communicate its role during the 'Age of Admirals', and the 30 years prior to and after 1807.

She said that it will highlight the West Indian Regiment, which consisted of black Jamaicans and Africans who manned Fort Charles during that period.

“So, because we want to highlight the liberated black soldiers we have focused the whole experience around the 1807 time, so that is the essential consideration behind that selection,” she explained.

According to Stiff, the historic significance of the site will be reinforced with a guided tour by trained, costumed storytellers, who are aware of the history of Fort Charles and will be able “to give the whole mystic and vibe of Port Royal during the 17th century”.

“So persons would be transported in time to that period, both aesthetically and during the whole tour experience there,” she stated.

Stiff said that Fort Charles is being positioned as an attraction for both local and overseas visitors.

“It would be operational regardless of whether a ship is in port or not,” she added.

She also urged Jamaicans to visit the fort, adding that the PAJ has already started to receive requests from schools and groups. However, she is advising groups to book tours in advance.

“So if we are going to have large groups it would be advisable to tell us that you are coming so that we can have an effective ratio of tour guides to visitors so that everybody can have a fulsome experience,” she said.

She said that entrance fees to Fort Charles for non-residents are US$20 for adults and US$12 for children. For Jamaican residents, it will cost $800 for adults and $500 for children, and $450 for a children's group.

Entrance fees for a guided tour of Fort Charles for non-residents is US$40 for adults and US$24 for children, while a guided tour for Jamaican residents is $1,800 for adults and $1,000 for children. Individuals are advised to have a valid national identification when visiting the attraction.


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