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Fire Devastates Speightstown

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fire devastates Speightstown leaving smoldering rubble in the empty spaces
Buildings in ruins after fire

It is sad and overwhelming to see the beautiful and historic buildings standing in piles of smouldering rubble after the fire devastates Speightstown. Priceless art and artifacts obliterated. Countless years of building these icons of Speightstown are gone.

Archer’s Hall Design Centre, Juma’s Restaurant and Art Gallery and One Eleven East are sadly lost. It is still too early for the distraught owners to make the final decision on what to do now. Yet, amid the rubble that is left of their livelihoods, many plans are in the works.

One Eleven East may rebuild. It was a trendy cafe that had become a favourite spot to stop and stare. The rustic elegance created by its owners, Beth & Martin, blended Caribbean ease with New York chick.

Both Juma’s and Archer’s are considering relocation at this time.

Juma’s may move to their sister restaurant, the Top Deck in Holetown.

Monique and Terri, owners of Archer’s Hall are already making plans to relocate their design office to Port St. Charles. They also expect to open a new showroom in another spot.

Hearts & Dreams Need Time to Heal After the Fire

Perhaps they may all return to the famous Speightstown setting in the future. But first the dust must settle and the broken hearts and dreams need time to mend. The artist in residence at Juma’s has lost an entire collection, created over many years of creative and inspired work. One can only imagine how devastating that must be.

The only good news is that no one was hurt and no lives were lost in the fire that ravaged the town. The livelihoods of many, however, have been dealt a massive blow. For now, the fire has left a gaping hole in the centre of the historic old town.

The fire started at Juma’s Restaurant at about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 3rd, 2020. It quickly engulfed the two businesses on either side of the building.

Fire Devastates Speightstown melting down the metal plaque oposite Jumas restaurant

The heat was so fierce that a metal plate on the opposite side of the street melted. The rubble was still smouldering on Sunday when these images were taken.

It is an unfortunate loss for this historic little town, once the main port and commercial centre of the island.

Speightstown’s Historic Past & Presence

shattered dream like toys torn from the landscape will not deter the proud history of this special town ravaged by fire.
Cherished historic buildings torn from the landscape by the devastating fire

Speightstown was settled in 1630 and quickly established a brisk trade with Britain. In the early years, it shipped sugar and commodities primarily to Bristol, which lead many to call it Little Bristol – a name that still exists in popular culture. Little Bristol Beach Bar, just north of One Eleven East, is a popular spot for travellers today.

The official name is Speightstown. It was named after William Speight, who was an early settler. He became a member of Barbados’ first Assembly in the early colonial history. From this vantage point, he could oversee the development of heavily fortified forts, the port and business centre.

The fortifications were so successful that Oliver Cromwell’s force, led by George Ayscue, could not land. For 6 months in 1649, Ayscue was repelled by the well manned forts along the shore.

Barbados was loyal to Charles I and would not accept Cromwell as their protector. Ultimately, Ayscue gave up. He was advised to attack the less fortified port of Oistins, in the south of the island.

The rest is the story of the “Charter of Barbados”, which is well recorded in history. It was a testament to the character of Barbados. The charter gave the island concessions not seen anywhere before. They included the guarantee that Barbados could not be taxed without the consent of the Barbados General Assembly.

Architecture Fashioned by Tradition & Climate

Arlinkton longhouse -example of unique Barandos architecture styles adopted in Charlestown USA
Arlington House saved from the fire that demolished buildings just feet away

Today, Speightstown is an outstanding example of colonial architecture infused with Caribbean living. The old duplex houses, now popular around the world as city townhouses, still exist in Barbados. Its influence can be seen in Charleston. It is a simple two-story, one-room, wide house. The family typically lived upstairs and business was conducted on the ground floor.

The Caribbean influence made sure that the windows and extensive patio provided shade and ample ventilation. The long house was designed with its shorter end facing the street. The long sides stretched back along a narrow plot of land. Many of these houses have been demolished but several remain. Arlington House is a fine example of this architecture, which is still popular in downtown Charleston.

From The Ashes

Many have been hit hard by this tragic fire that devastated Speightstown. The tiny town may lose these landmarks in the short term. Owners may relocate while the city rebuilds. Some may stay away and others may return. The location is prime Real Estate on the beach. It backs onto a historic street in a quiet, authentic town that is an outstanding example of the past.

It is a unique, authentic small village that was a central town, port and business centre. Today, it is noted for its charming old buildings and village life that has survived the modern age. Village life continues with many small vendors adding colour and character to the ambiance.

The tragedy of fire that devastated Speightstown will pass and this special seaside village/town will be rebuilt. In time, the broken hearts and shattered dreams will mend. All will rise from the ashes to reclaim their place in history.

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