Kingston 1882

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Christmas in Kingston 1882

Was this Kingston's worst Christmas ever?

On December 11 and 12, 1882, most of the commercial section of down town Kingston was destroyed by the most devastating fire in the city's history. It was difficult to think of celebrating among the smoking ruins.


New York Times 1882, December 22









The steam-ship Alvo, of the Atlas Line, which was in the harbor of Kingston at the time of the recent fire there, reached this port yesterday. One of her officers stated that shortly after noon on the 11th inst. he heard the fire alarm on shore. The flames seemed to spread with great rapidity. The wind was blowing from seaward at the time, and burning pieces of wood were carried up in the air and distributed in all directions to leeward. People were seen hurrying to the water’s edge with their property, as they seemed to think that they would be secure from the flames there. As the afternoon advanced flames which had been communicated to the shingle roofs by sparks were seen to spring up in different portions of the town. At about 5 o’clock in the afternoon the wind lulled and then changed into a strong land breeze. This drove the flames down toward the water’s edge. The vessels at the docks had slipped their moorings and were anchored out in the bay. The sparks now felt thick and fast upon the decks, and the sails had to kept wet in order to prevent them from taking fire. Cries of alarm were heard on the docks, where hundreds of persons had gathered with their possessions. These peo­ple were in danger of being roasted alive, and the Alvo lowered her boats and sent them to the rescue. About 250 persons were taken from the wharves to the decks of the Alvo. Their property, which had been left on the docks. was soon after­ward destroyed. The Ailsa and Arran, of the same line, and the other vessels in the harbor took off persons from the docks. A vessel which had been unloading at the dock of Lyons & Son, failed to cut her moorings and was burned to the water’s edge. The Custom-house took fire, but the flames were soon extinguished. Many persons who had taken refuge on the Alvo remained there all night and watched the flames. which were illuminating the sky in all directions. Next day the fire died out for want of fuel. On the l4th, when the Alvo sailed, 12 persons were known to have perished in the flames, and the total loss was estimated at about [pounds sterling] 2,500,000.


for a further account of the fire of 1882 click on the picture below: 


Kingston burning

New York Times, 1883 January 7

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Dec. 29. - Kingston market on a Christmas morning is one of the sights of the West Indies, but last Christmas, proved a dead failure respecting merrymaking. The usual crowds were to be seen loitering through the market, but each person appeared as dull and lifeless as the blackened walls of the city. There is still a funereal gloom hanging over the city, although the relief committees have been successful in meeting all the immediate cases of distress.



This newspaper comment indicates the significance of Kingston's Christmas Market.


Xmas '04

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