Friday, November 12, 2010

Kingstown, SVG

by J. Carter

Kingstown is the capital and largest city in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Kingstown is located on the south western coast of the island of St. Vincent.  The town of about 13,500 hugs Kingstown Bay.  Inland from the Bay are green hills that are dotted with houses.  Kingstown has been described as a “working town” rather than a tourist destination.  Kingstown is a busy port city, but is less popular with tourists.  The island of St. Vincent, in general, has not historically been popular tourist destination.  This may change, however, with the completion of an international airport on the island.

Bay Street, near to Kingstown harbor, contains a few gift shops that are aimed at tourists.  A shopping center, south of Grenadines Wharf, caters to cruise ship passengers.  This shopping center includes a number of shops and restaurants.

 Upper Bay Street is one of the busier parts of town during the day.  Grenadines Wharf is located at the south end of Bay Street.  As the name would suggest, is the staging point for sailing ships and ferries heading to the Grenadines.

Much of Kingstown’s downtown core was built with the stone and brick ballast from ships that came to call on the town’s port.  After unloading their stone and brick ballast, these ships took on local sugar and spices.

Kingstown Produce Market is a sprawling, three-story building that covers an entire city block.  The streets surrounding the building are Upper Bay, Hillsboro and Bedford streets, near the center of town.  The market is open from Monday to Saturday.  It is busiest of Friday and Saturday mornings.  Vendors in the market sell everything from foodstuffs to clothing and crafts.

 Little Tokyo is a waterfront shopping district with an indoor fish market and food stalls.  The name of the district is a reference to the fact that funding for the project was provided by Japan.

There are at least four historic church buildings in Kingstown.  St. George’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church, built in 1820.  This Georgian-style church is located on Grenville Street.  The interior includes austere wooden pews and stained glass windows.  One of the church’s stained glass windows was a gift from Queen Victoria, who originally commissioned it for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Across the street from St. George’s Cathedral is the Roman Catholic St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Assumption.  Building of the Cathedral began in 1823.  Nearby is the Kingstown Methodist Church, built by former slaves in 1841, soon after emancipation.  Scots Kirk was built by Scottish settlers in the nineteenth century for the local Scottish community.  In 1952 the building was taken over by the Seventh-Day Adventists, who turned it into their church.

One of St. Vincent’s most famous sites is the Botanical Gardens.  This site is just a few minutes drive from downtown Kingstown.  The garden dates from 1765, making it the oldest botanical garden in the Western hemisphere.  Captain Bligh, of the mutiny on the Bounty fame, bought the first breadfruit tree to the island from the South Pacific.  This low maintenance trees produced starchy fruit that was used as a cheap source of food on the island.  The Botanical Gardens are home to the descendants of Captain Bligh’s original tree.  A small aviary houses a few rare St. Vincent parrots.  Guides offer tours of the gardens.

For a fairly small town, Kingstown is packed with interesting sights and historic buildings.