Port of Kingston
Review and History

The Port of Kingston is the capital, biggest city, and main port of Jamaica. Located on the island's southeastern shores, it has an excellent natural harbor that is protected by a narrow peninsula that is a tourist resort and recreation area. The Port of Kingston is about 622 nautical miles (1100 kilometers or 684 miles direct) east-southeast of the Port of Cancun in Mexico. The Port of Kingston is also about 770 nautical miles (804 kilometers or 500 miles direct) southeast of the Port of Havana in Cuba. Outside the United States, the Port of Kingston is the largest mainly English-speaking city in the Americas. In 2011, about 937.7 thousand people lived in the Kingston urban area.

The modern Port of Kingston has been re-developed to replace the historic colonial West Indian trade area. Shipping activities are now in Newport West next to the Kingston Industrial Estate. Much of the Port of Kingston is a shanty-town. But New Kingston, Manor Park, and Barbican and the suburbs of St. Andrew stand in contrast to the general atmosphere of poverty in the old town and downtown areas.

Port History

The Port of Kingston was established in 1692 after an earthquake destroyed Port Royal, and the survivors fled. Before then, the Port of Kingston was an agricultural center. The survivors set up their tented camp on the waterfront. The Port of Kingston did not really begin to grow until Port Royal was further damaged by a pirate-ignited fire in 1703.

The oldest parts of the Port of Kingston reflect conscious planning, with rectangular grid patterned streets. The 17th Century Rockfort, a moated fortress, was last occupied in 1865, but it still stands on the town’s eastern border. By 1703, the Port of Kingston was Jamaica’s commercial capital. By 1716, it was Jamaica’s largest town and trade center. The town’s first free school (1729) and theater (1774) still exist.

In 1755, governor Sir Charles Knowles announced the transfer of government offices from Spanish Town to the Port of Kingston. However, many believed the Port of Kingston to be immoral and inappropriate, so the order was rescinded. However, the Port of Kingston’s population had reached 11 thousand by 1780, and its merchants began pushing for the capital to be moved to the Port of Kingston, which had become the commercial center of the island.

By the late 18th Century, the Port of Kingston housed over three thousand brick buildings, and the harbor was busy with trade and military activity. The Port of Kingston was the island’s main center for commerce, processing, agriculture, and transportation.

In 1872, it became the island’s political capital when the government officially moved administrative functions from Spanish Town. It continued to be the capital when Jamaica gained its independence in 1962.

In 1907, the Kingston Earthquake killed 800 people and destroyed almost all of the historic buildings in the south Port of Kingston. New building codes were established, though not always enforced. In the 1930s, trade unions and political parties for workers were borne from island-wide riots. In 1948, the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies opened to welcome 24 medical students.

In the 1960s, major changes began to come to the Port of Kingston. The Port of Kingston’s central business district was re-developed. With international attention coming to the island’s reggae music, a 95-acre waterfront area was developed for tourism. With these changes came new shops and offices. New Kingston, a new financial center, replaced the old Knutsford Racetrack. New boulevards and multi-story buildings sprang up in the new area. In 1966, the Port of Kingston played host to the Commonwealth Games.

In the 1970s, economic stress created political tension, particularly in the western section of the Port of Kingston that had not been developed. Deteriorating conditions led to frequent violence and a decline in tourism, bringing further economic hardship to the Port of Kingston. The previously dominant People’s National Party (social democrats) was voted out of office.

Since the 1980s, market-oriented governments have maintained control. In the 1990s, the Port of Kingston began to modernize and reorganize. Many organizations were formed to develop the urban areas. Most of the old wharves were demolished, and the waterfront was re-developed. Hotels, shops, and a cultural center joined cruise and cargo shipping facilities. The original parish of Kingston merged with St. Andrew parish, and today, over a fourth of the country’s population lives in the Kingston-St. Andrew corporation.

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