Falmouth, Jamaica, May 31-June 5, 2011
>> See the Falmouth Conference Web site <<
all photos: Louis Nelson
Founded in the 1770s as the major port for the remarkably fertile sugar plantations of Jamaica’s north coast, Falmouth grew dramatically between the sugar boom years of the late eighteenth century and emancipation in 1838. In this period British merchants erected a significant set of houses and stores along the town’s major commercial streets. There also survives a substantial fortification that now serves as the town's public elementary school, numerous nineteenth-century churches, an early courthouse, and a town square centered on a public cistern that provided fresh running water in town by the 1790s.
Emancipation in the 1830s expanded exponentially the number of Falmouth’s free blacks, who had been living in town since its founding. Through the early nineteenth century, free blacks erected a notable set of small frame houses that evolved through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, diversifying the town's built environment in interesting ways. Falmouth is also the host to a handful of spectacular modernist buildings, especially a 1950s Catholic church and a number of reclaimed shipping containers that—once re-purposed—serve today as cheap roadside shops.
Tours will fully explore Falmouth, but will venture out of town as well: Falmouth sits at the edge of a plantation parish with extraordinary landscapes including slave hospitals, sugar works, water mills, and great houses surviving intact.
The 2011 VAF will experience Falmouth and its environs in an extraordinary moment of transformation. In 2008, the Jamaican government signed a contract with Royal Caribbean cruise lines to erect a new 11-acre wharf with the capacity to berth two cruise ships simultaneously; it opens for business in November, 2010. VAFers will visit Falmouth just after the wharf has opened, giving us the opportunity to examine a historic landscape undergoing profound material, social, economic, and political changes.
In Falmouth, Jamaica, VAFers can focus on creolized Georgians, early timber framing, free black landscapes, architectures of reclamation, or historic preservation and the politics of heritage tourism—or the interaction among them. With something for everyone—not least the Caribbean resort hotel where our conference will be based—VAF 2011 promises to be a memorable gathering. We hope you will be there!