When in Kingston, make time for a stop at Devon House, a grand 1891 Georgian mansion that was built for George Stiebel, Jamaica's first non-white millionaire. The lovely upright house and its 11 surrounding acres are now protected as a National Heritage Site, but that doesn't mean that there's not fun to be had. The sprawling grounds include shops, restaurants, a bakery, and a popular ice-cream shop, I-Scream. House tours can be arranged, but the grounds, landscaped with stately palms and fountains, are the highlight—it’s a great spot to take a stroll, read, shop, or dine. The mansion and its manicured lawns are also used for weddings and lavish events.
By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
Most Jamaicans visit Devon House to sample its popular "I-Scream," which comes in several tropical flavors, shop for unique gifts, dine or relax in its expansive surroundings. Many more visit for the tour of the Georgian-style mansion, which was built in 1881 for George Stiebel, Jamaica's first black millionaire. The mansion was built entirely of brick and wood and features classical Georgian lines - simple form, detailing and symmetry - with high ceilings, carved transoms over elegant doors, and ample louvered windows that circulate air efficiently throughout the house. The furniture is a mix of Jamaican, English and French antiques, and reproductions. The 35-foot ballroom is, without doubt, the mansion's showpiece with its Broadwood piano, Wedgwood ceiling and English chandelier that Stiebel bought. Devon House has been restored several times and is now owned by the Jamaican government. Many of the old buildings from Stiebel's time are still in use. The Grog Shoppe was the horse and carriage stable and blacksmith's shop; the Courtyard Shops were servants quarters, and the current Devon House Bakery used to be the kitchen. Devon House, a National Heritage Site, is a center for the celebration of Jamaica's art and culture. Guided tours are available on weekdays only with the last tour given at 4:30 p.m. The current $10 per person entry fee includes a voucher for ice cream.
By Marcia Mayne
History and Gourmet Delights at Devon House, Jamaica
The high life enjoyed in the West Indies during the colonial age was almost entirely the province of white Europeans. Almost. Jamaican George Stiebel was an exception. The son of a black housekeeper and a German-Jewish merchant, Stiebel overcame incessant bullying over his mixed race to become Jamaica's first black billionaire. Devon House was his home. Constructed in 1891 on what was then a 51-acre estate in the heart of Kingston, Devon House remains today as it was back then one of the most stately and revered buildings in all of Jamaica. During a recent stay at The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, every single member of the super-friendly hotel staff that I met insisted that I just couldn't leave Kingston without a stop at Devon House. Learning Stiebel's story proved them right enough, though it was the culinary delights at the various eateries located within the grounds of Devon House that really made this place extra special to me. Do, most definitely, get a scoop or two of Devon House i-Scream. The Stout flavor is particularly amazing, as are the gourmet Jamaican patties served at the Devon House Bakery. The curry goat patty is simply out of this world!
Delighting in Devon House I Scream
Jamaica’s finest ice cream and easily among the very best cold and creamy treats I’ve ever sampled anywhere, Devon House I Scream is simply sublime. I Scream is available throughout Jamaica, but truly it's best enjoyed here at its source on the grounds of the historic Devon House Mansion in New Kingston. It was a quick five-minute taxi ride from my hotel, the elegant Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, to Devon House, though my nervous anticipation made the trip feel much longer. I had long heard about the legendary I Scream, but somehow had never found time to try it on previous visits to Jamaica's capital. This trip would be different, and thankfully so. I found nearly 30 different flavors on offer at I Scream. My choice, though, was an easy one – Devon Stout. The recommendation came from one of the fantastic front desk staffers back at The Courtleigh, who told me Stout was the most popular flavor among local Jamaicans. The minute it hit my lips, it was easy to see why. Creamy and refreshing, but bearing the unmistakable boldness of its namesake dark brew, Devon Stout is pure manna on a hot day in Jamaica.
26 Hope Rd, Kingston, Jamaica
Sun - Sat 7am - 10pm