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Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaicamarker and is located on the southeastern coast of the island country. It faces a natural harbour protected by the Palisadoesmarker, a long sand spit which connects Port Royalmarker and the Norman Manley International Airportmarker to the rest of the island. In the Americas, Kingston is the largest predominantly English-speaking city south of the United Statesmarker.

The local government bodies of the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrewmarker were amalgamated by the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation Act of 1923, to form the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC). Greater Kingston, or the "Corporate Area" refers to the KSAC; however, it does not solely refer to Kingston Parishmarker, which only consists of the old downtown and Port Royal. Kingston Parish had a population of 96,052, and St. Andrew had a population of 555,828 in 2001.

The city proper is bounded by Six Miles to the west, Stony Hill to the north, Papine to the northeast and Harbour View to the east. Communities in rural St. Andrew such as Gordon Town, Mavis Bank, Lawrence Tavern, Mt. Airy and Bull Bay would not be described as being in Kingston.

Two parts make up the central area of Kingston: the historic but troubled Downtown, and New Kingston. Several reggae stars, including Buju Banton, Sean Paul, Bounty Killer, and Beenie Man, hail from Kingston. Attractions include the nearby Hellshiremarker and Lime Cay beaches, the National Gallery of Jamaica, the ruins of Port Royal, and Devon House, a mansion with adjoining park that once belonged to Jamaica's first black millionaire. Several annual and well-visited festivals are held in Kingston.

Kingston is served by Norman Manley International Airportmarker and also by the smaller and primarily domestic Tinson Pen Aerodromemarker.


Map of Kingston 1897
Bird's eye view of Kingston after the 1907 earthquake
Kingston was founded on 22 July 1692, as a place for refugees and survivors of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royalmarker. Before the earthquake, Kingston’s functions were purely agricultural. The earthquake survivors set up a refugee camp on the sea front. Approximately two thousand people died due to mosquito-borne diseases. Initially the refugees lived in a tented camp on Colonel Barry's Hog Crawle. The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of Port Royal by the Nick Catania Pirate Fleet's fire in 1703. Surveyor John Goffe drew up a plan for the town based on a grid bounded by North, East, West and Harbour Streets. By 1716 it had become the largest town and the centre of trade for Jamaicamarker.The government sold land to people with the regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they owned in Port Royalmarker, and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands north on the plains of Liguaneamarker.

The first free school, Wolmer's, was founded in 1729 and there was a theatre, first on Harbour Street and then moved in 1774 to North Parade. Both are still in existence. In 1755 the governor, Sir Charles Knowles, had decided to transfer the government offices from Spanish Townmarker to Kingston. It was thought by some to be an unsuitable location for the Assembly in close proximity to the moral distractions of Kingston, and the next governor rescinded the Act. However, by 1780 the population of Kingston was 11,000, and the merchants began lobbying for the administrative capital to be transferred from Spanish Town, which was by then eclipsed by the commercial activity in Kingston.

Scenes in Kingston after the 1882 fire.
By the end of the 18th century the city contained more than 3000 brick buildings. The harbour fostered trade, and played part in several naval wars of the 18th century. Kingston took over the functions of Spanish Town (the capital at the time). These functions included agriculture, commercial, processing, and a main transportation hub to and from Kingston and other sections of the island.

The government passed an act to transfer the government offices to Kingston from Spanish Town, which occurred in 1872. It kept this status when the island was granted independence in 1962.

In 1907, 800 people died in another earthquake known as the 1907 Kingston earthquake, destroying nearly all the historical buildings south of Parade in the city. That was when a restriction of no more than was instituted on buildings in the central business district. These three story high buildings were built with reinforced concrete. Construction on King Street in the city was the first area to breach this building code.

During the 1930s, island-wide riots led to the development of trade unions and political parties to represent workers.

The city became home to the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies founded in 1948 with 24 medical students.

It wasn’t till the 1960s that major change occurred in the redevelopment of Kingston’s central business district. The international attention of reggae music at that time coincided with the expansion and development of of the Downtown Kingston waterfront area.

These developments led to an influx of shops and offices, and the development of a new financial center: New Kingstonmarker, which replaced the Knutsford Racetrack. Multi-story buildings and boulevards were placed within that section.

In 1966 Kingston was the host city to the Commonwealth Games.

The western section of the city was not the focus of development, and that area proved to be a tense area in political times. The 1970s saw deteriorating economic conditions that led to recurrent violence and a decline in tourism which later affected the island.

In the 1980 general elections, the democratic socialist People's National Party (PNP) government was voted out. Subsequent governments have been open market oriented since the 1980s. Within a global urban era, the 1990s saw that Kingston has made efforts to modernize and develop its city structure and functions. Various organizations such as The Kingston Restoration Company, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Port Authority of Jamaica, along with the Port Royalmarker Development Company, among others sought to develop the urban structure of the city.


Despite the fact that the majority of the population is of African descent, Kingston is also the home to various ethic groups; the largest groups are Hispanics, mostly from Latin America; East Indians and Chinese are the next largest groups, as evidenced by the many Asian restaurants in Kingston; smaller numbers of Europeans, mostly from Cubamarker and Great Britainmarker, including a number of Christian Syrians and Lebanese. People of mixed ancestry make up a sizable minority in the city as well.


There are a wide variety of Christian churches in the city. Most are Protestant, a legacy of Britishmarker colonization of the island. The chief denominations are Church of God, Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Pentecostal. Afro-Christian syncretic religions such as Rastafarianism are also widespread.

There is a Jewish synagogue in the city as well as a large number of Buddhists and Muslims. There are several Islamic organizations and mosques in Jamaica, including the Islamic Council of Jamaica and the Islamic Education and Dawah Center, both located in Kingston and offering classes in Islamic studies and daily prayers in congregation


Air Jamaica is headquartered in Kingston.


Kingston skyline, circa 2003
Kingston is surrounded by the Blue Mountainsmarker, Red Hills, Long Mountain and the Kingston Harbourmarker. The city is situated on the Liguaneamarker Plain, an alluvial plain alongside the Hope River. Kingston experiences frequent earthquakes, including the 1907 earthquake.


Kingston has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet-and-dry climate, characterized by a wet season from May to November, which coincides with the hurricane season, and a dry season from December to April. During the dry season, there is not much rainfall, however, cold and stationary fronts occur at this time, and often bring heavy showers, especially in March. Kingston is located in the rain shadow of the Blue Mountainsmarker; therefore, little to none of the moisture carried by the Northeast Trade Winds falls over Kingston, causing Kingston to be very dry in comparison to Portlandmarker and Saint Marymarker on the windward side of the Blue Mountains. Kingston is on a coastal location, hence it comes under the influence of the sea, though dense urban development can negate this effect. In the 21st century, Kingston has experienced temperatures as high as 34°C (93.2°F) and temperatures as low as 25°C (77°F). Between 1895 and 1990, the total average rainfall was recorded at 909.7 mm (35.8 inches), the highest monthly average rainfall recorded in October at 181.1 mm (7.1 inches), and the lowest monthly average rainfall recorded in March at 22.7 mm (0.9 inches).

Neighbourhoods and districts

  • Allman Town
  • Barbican
  • Beverly Hills
  • Bournemouth Gardens
  • Camperdown
  • Cassava Piece
  • Cherry Gardens
  • Cockburn Gardens
  • Constant Spring
  • Cooreville Gardens
  • Cross Roads
  • Delacree Park
  • Denham Town
  • Duhaney Park
  • Eastwood Park
  • Fletcher's Land
  • Four Mile
  • Grants Pen
  • Greenwich Town
  • Hannah Town
  • Harbour Viewmarker
  • Havendale

  • Hope Pastures
  • Hughenden
  • Jack's Hill
  • Jones Town
  • Kaliwali Beach
  • Kencot
  • Kingston Gardens
  • Liguaneamarker
  • Manley Meadows
  • Mannings Hill
  • Maxfield
  • Meadowbrook
  • Meadowbrook Estate
  • Molynes Gardens
  • Mona Heights
  • Mountain View Gardens
  • Nannyville Gardens
  • New Haven
  • New Kingstonmarker
  • Newport West
  • Norbrookmarker
  • Norman Gardens
  • Olympic Gardens

  • Papine
  • Patrick Gardens
  • Perkins Estate
  • Pembroke Hall
  • Queensbury
  • Queensborough
  • Rae Town
  • Red Hills
  • Richmond Park
  • Rockfort/ Rennock lodge
  • Rollington Town
  • Seaview Gardens
  • Shooters Hill
  • Six Miles
  • St Mary
  • Stony Hill
  • Three Mile
  • Tivoli Garden
  • Trench Townmarker
  • Vineyard Town
  • Washington Gardens
  • Woodford Park
  • Whitfield Town
  • Ziadie Gardens



Transport centre in Half Way Tree.
The St William Grant Park (Parade) in the heart of downtown Kingston is the starting point for three of Jamaica's four A roads, namely the A1 (Kingston to Lucea), the A3 (Kingston to Saint Ann's Bay) and the A4 (Kingston to Annotto Bay), while the city itself is provided with a dense network of trunk, main, secondary and minor roads.

Kingston is well served by buses, mini buses and taxis, which operate throughout the city with major hubs at Parade, Cross Roads, Half Way Tree and elsewhere.

Private car ownership levels are high and like many major urban conurbations Kingston suffers from frequent traffic jams and pollution.


The now disused Kingston railway stationmarker served the Kingston to Montego Bay main line with branches from Spanish Town to Ewarton, Bog Walk to Port Antonio, Linstead to New Works and May pen to Frankfield.

The station opened in 1845 and closed in October 1992 when all passenger traffic on Jamaica's railways abruptly ceased.


Kingston's international airport is Norman Manley International Airportmarker while Tinson Pen Aerodromemarker provides domestic services.


Historically, the Kingston waterfront was Jamaica's main port with many finger piers at which freighters and passenger liners could dock. More recently, with the containerisation of freight, the port has moved to Newport West.


The Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica's police force, is based on Old Hope Road near Liguaneamarker. Smaller police stations, such as Hunt's Bay, Matilda's Corner and Half-Way-Tree, are dispersed across the Corporate Area. The Supreme Court of Jamaica is also located in Kingston. Other courts, such as the Half-Way-Tree Resident Magistrate's Court, Gun Court, Traffic Court and Family Court, make Kingston their home. The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has its headquarters at Up Park Camp near New Kingstonmarker and Cross Roads. The JDF also operates a major naval base at Port Royal.

Media and telecommunications

The Gleaner Company, the Jamaica Observer and the Sunday Herald, three of Jamaica's large newspaper companies, make their home in Kingston. Several television and radio stations including Television Jamaica (TVJ), CVM TV, RJR 94 FM,TBC 88.5 FM, Hitz 92 FM, FAME 95 FM, LOVE TV, ZIP 103, Kool 97 FM and LOVE FM, are all based in Kingston. Kingston generally has an adequate telecommunications service, administered by either Cable and Wireless or Flow Jamaica. Cellular phone service is also very strong in Kingston, especially since Cable & Wireless, Digicel and Claro, Jamaica’s three cellular providers, are all based in the city.


Kingston, as the capital, is the financial, cultural, economic and industrial centre of Jamaica. Many financial institutions are based in Kingston, and the city boasts the largest number of hospitals, schools, universities and cultural attractions of any urban area on the island. Notable Kingston landmarks include the University of the West Indies, Jamaica Defence Force Museum, and Bob Marley Museummarker.

Notable residents

Sister cities

Kingston has five sister cities:


External links

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