DevonHouseKingstonKingston, Jamaica, has taken some hard knocks over the years as crime and violence in certain areas propelled the capital city into the spotlight.

It happened again in May as police attempted to arrest a suspected drug lord in west Kingston. The ensuing violence made headlines and prompted a multipronged campaign to assure visitors that Jamaica’s resort areas, far removed from Kingston, were safe, secure and welcoming.

Kingston can be a tough city to love, but there are gems here well worth a visit, including the Bob Marley Museum, Emancipation Park, the National Gallery and the Hope Botanical Gardens.

Add another to the list: the Devon House Mansion, described as one of Jamaica’s most celebrated national monuments, recently completed a $1.3 million, government-financed upgrade that included landscaping, mansion refurbishment, renovations to the on-site restaurants and 20 shops and the repair of gazebos and park benches in its gardens.

The 1881 landmark, on an 11-acre parcel of land on Hope Road in Kingston not far from the Marley Museum, was the architectural dream of the island’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, the son of a housekeeper and Jewish merchant.

He made his fortune from investments in gold mines in Venezuela and then purchased land in Jamaica, including the site where he built Devon House.

After a series of owners, the mansion had its first restoration in the 1960s, followed by others in 1974, 1982, 1987 and the most recent, which began in 2008.

In between extensive repairs to its wooden frame and roof, crystal chandeliers, marble sculptures, Wedgwood ceilings and mahogany furniture, Devon House opened to the public in 1984, was designated a national monument by the Jamaican National Heritage Trust in 1990 and has been managed by the Devon House Development Co. since 2002.

"The redevelopment of the Devon House Mansion was a critical step in preserving this significant piece of the island’s history," said John Lynch, director of tourism.

"We’re pleased with the transformation of the property and proud that this monument still stands as a chief relic of Kingston’s vibrant culture," he said.

Nowadays, visitors, who number between 18,000 and 20,000 a month, can tour the mansion, shop in the courtyard and dine at Norma’s on the Terrace and in the Grogge Shoppe’s rustic setting.

One of the most popular stops is the Devon House I-Scream shop, said Andre Reid, marketing and events manager.

The shop, whose 27 flavors include cherry Bordeaux, coconut coffee and soursop, "is known all over Jamaica," Reid said.

Other visitor favorites include the Wassi Art pottery studio, the Rum Roast and Royals’ selections of cigars, spices and coffee and the Bin 26 wine bar.

With an eye to the destination wedding market, Devon House hopes to add a chapel to its offerings as an event venue, according to Reid.

The park and gardens at Devon House are open daily; the mansion and shops are open Mondays to Saturdays; admission is $5.






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