By Lisa Jeeves
If you’re planning a short, cultural city break in Bermuda, St George, with its wealth of historic architecture, is the perfect place.
If you’ve only got a short time, a cultural city break in Bermuda makes for a wonderful experience. Being so compact doesn’t mean it lacks an interesting heritage, and with settlements dating back to the 1600s, there’s a breadth of history that many of my clients find quite surprising.
While no matter where you stay on the island, you’ll be able to explore a host of cultural attractions. If you’re interested in learning more about the colonial architecture of the island, I recommend you base your city break in Bermuda in the former capital, St. George.
The Historic Homes of St. George
St. George held its place as the capital of the island for more than two centuries before it was moved to Hamilton City. As such, many of its original buildings were quite grand in their construction, and even more modest residences have an elegant colonial charm definitive of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Simply wandering through the quaint streets of St George is a wonderful way to get an overview of the style, with some of the houses still in their original form, displaying features like gabled roofs, wooden shutters, chimneys and grand gateposts. While many have been taken over by commercial enterprise or private residences, some are open to the public. But even their exteriors often offer an insight into the city’s storied past.
Fanny Fox’s Cottage
This is probably the best-known historic house in the town, dating back to about 1707. Extremely photogenic (it may even look slightly familiar, as it’s been the subject of many postcards and artworks) and retaining many of its original features, the cottage has been extended a number of times to enlarge and improve it, but the eastern side is virtually untouched. It got its name in the 1800s after the owner’s daughter, whose marriage lasted just one day, moved back to spend the rest of her life alone here. Today it is privately owned under the Bermuda National Trust.
Address: 10 Governor’s Alley.
This former Mayoral residence, which dates back to 1815, was at one time the finest mansion in town. The two-storey building’s elegant architecture was the design of the mayor John Van Norden himself, and features a slanted roof, wide eaves, broad verandas and quoins (cornerstones) at the junctions of the walls. Inside is an impressive staircase with two welcoming arms carved into the design. Whitehall was the site of many high-society functions and continued as a residence for a number of ensuing mayors. Today it’s a private residence for a fortunate local family.
Address: 12 Clarence St.
Bridge House is a lovely two-story former private residence built in the early 1700s overlooking the town square. The original kitchen was in a separate building but was attached during a restoration in the nineteenth century, at which time a porch was also added to the second level. The house has a number of interesting features, including the different sized and shaped chimneys and some beautiful cedar timberwork on the interiors. Today, the lower level is used as an art exhibition space, while the upstairs serves as a private residence under the management of the Bermuda National Trust.
Address: 1 Bridge St.
Stewart Hall, also a property of the Bermuda National Trust, is one of my favorites of all St. George’s historic homes. It’s a prime example of the traditional architecture of the 1700s, with an attractive gable roof offset by two massive chimneys with double flues. While it’s set over two levels, there was a single story addition constructed in the 1800s along with a number of outhouses. Today it is home to the famous Bermuda Perfumery.
Address: 5 Queens St.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the town’s beautiful historic homes and, if you have time, you should also consider visiting:
Aunt Nea’s Inn
Pilot Darrell’s House
The Old Rectory
It is possible to experience a great deal of the island’s extensive history and culture on even a short city break in Bermuda. As the closest destination to the airport, and boasting so much wonderful architecture, St George is the perfect place to do it.