Thursday, 2 August 2007

Going Home ... 5 Holborn Road

Ah ... going home. It means so many different things to each of us. Think of the quotations you've heard about "home". Well, I have already quoted Thomas Wolfe ... "You can't go home again." But there's also "There's no place like home" (John Howard Payne); "Any place I hang my hat is home" (Arlen and Mercer); "Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in" (Robert Frost). As for my feelings about home ... well, 5 Holborn Road was the place I spent the first twenty-two years of my life, from the time I was six months old, so I knew no other place as home.
In 2003 when I went to Jamaica after an absence of more than twenty years, I had the opportunity to visit 5 Holborn Road which I had not seen for many years. My parents had sold the house in the sixties and moved, first to 11 Dunrobin Avenue and later to 4 Carvalho Drive. One of the last times I saw 5 Holborn Road was probably in 1960 and it looked like this.

There were two gates opening on an unpaved circular driveway, around which were beds of gerberas (African daisies) which my mother loved, and two huge bushes of pink oleander framed the front verandah.
I was staying with my cousin, Rosemary, near Montego Bay in 2003, and we decided to come to Kingston ... I should say New Kingston ... for the weekend to visit family and friends. We wanted to stay at a moderately priced hotel and, knowing that 5 Holborn Road was now the Indies Hotel, I suggested we stay there. So we did the long drive from Montego Bay to Kingston and finally arrived at 5 Holborn Road. I must admit to feelings both of anticipation and some trepidation at seeing my home again. I had seen a photograph of it some time before, but the actual view was indeed a surprise.


My first reaction was: "Good Lord! They've paved over the lawn and the gerberas". But, of course they had to, in order to provide parking for their guests, and different as the outside of the house looked, I was pleasantly surprised on entering it to discover that, apart from renovations to the interior, I could recognize the house itself. It could so easily have been demolished in order to build a hotel there, but instead the owners had built an extension on the existing house and kept the character of the original building. The extension was built around the property to connect with the original outbuildings and garage and excellent use has been made of them. The rooms are on two levels behind the house with a courtyard in the middle, and if indeed the flowers in front were gone, it was more than made up for with the masses of tropical plants in the courtyard.
Here is a view of the upper level of the guest rooms, built around the original house. I stayed in number 12.


The added building extends to the old outbuildings and the detached garage is now part of the entire structure.

Along with the palms and ferns one finds a riot of colour with ginger liles and other tropical flowers. The former garage is the dining room and bar,where I enjoyed a typical Jamaican breakfast of salt fish and ackee.


The interior of the house has changed and yet I could still see traces of my old home. Here is a picture I took in 1960 of our dining room.


At the left rear one can see the door to the pantry, and at the rear the entrance to the latticed in back verandah. (I remember a picture that used to hang on the wall to the right of the window looking out on the back verandah. It was a black and white print of Millais's "Princes in the Tower".). The dining room is now the lobby of the hotel and looks like this.

As you can see, the entrance to the pantry has been blocked off; the back verandah now forms part of the lobby and office and is no longer latticed in, and the windows have been changed. The floors are still the gleaming mahogany that they were when I was growing up here and it was kept that way with a coconut brush and great amounts of elbow grease.


What were my thoughts on seeing my old home again? I was pleased that it had not been changed out of all recognition, and that in fact the renovations made were appropriate to the character of the house itself. It was, of course, no longer home, but it was welcoming and familiar, and strangely enough, seemed quite a bit smaller to me than it had been when I was growing up there.

One last thing ... occasionally I dream of home and family now gone, and when I do it is 5 Holborn Road that I see in my dreams.

6 comments:

Gerry said...

I have the same experience about dreaming of home. When I dream of being home, even with Marg and the kids, home is 5273 Joel Ave.

Dorothy Kew said...

That's really interesting, Gerry. It shows that our earliest experiences are perhaps the most vivid for us ... the ones that stay with us throughout our lives.

patricia said...

I agree with Gerry. I've had dreams about Joel Avenue, too. Aside from the gardens and the trees, on thing that I really do miss is that library in the basement that Dad built, the one that housed all your old paperbacks.

I think this is one of my favourite posts. It must have been a very odd feeling, going back to the old house. Looking at that picture of Julian, and Rodney, etc, and knowing that your home was once full of life and family chatter, it is hard to accept that those days are now long past. Though not forgotten, hopefully. It is replaced with a new kid of life, perhaps intermingling with the ghosts of yesteryear. A very bittersweet thought.

Dorothy Kew said...

"The past is another country", as they say. But as long we keep it in our memories it's still there. What I really appreciate about the Indies Hotel is that the owners did not demolish the bulding, but built on it, and kept it's original ethos. So often here in Canada people tear down historic buildings to erect some ghastly edifice in its place.

Jeanette A. Calder said...

Loved the post and the photos you shared. Thanks much. Look forward to more.

Philippines properties said...

Lovely places specially the first photo. Like the design of the home.

Paula M

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
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