Right Steps & Poui Trees

The Old Sangster’s Book Store Building: A Liguanea Landmark Comes Down


Driving past the old Sangster’s Book Store building in Liguanea last week, I noticed how derelict it was looking and thought briefly about the fact that it had been a Liguanea landmark since my childhood. Then yesterday I saw this tweet:old-sangsters-tweet-11-12-16I sent a quick replyold-sangsters-tweet-reply-11-12-16and then grabbed my camera and headed for the location to see if I could capture something of the demolition of this old building.

The Sangster’s Bookstores website  has a brief history of the business, which indicates that the Liguanea branch was established in 1951.sangsters-history-re-liguanea-branch

It was located at one end of the island that sits at the intersection of Old Hope Road and Mona Road, sandwiched between the Standpipe community and what is now the US Embassy, which used to be the Bamboo Pen property.google-map-location-of-old-sangsters-bookstore-buildingThis was the first bookstore that I actually remember spending time at and over the years I spent many happy hours browsing there. It was also a convenient place to buy school books or supplies. During the 1970s, the supply of books became rather sparse, with the difficulties in importing things during those years. Later on I bought my first art book ever at Sangster’s, the most expensive book I’d bought till that point. A beautiful book about René Magritte, the surrealist painter whose work I loved. It cost J$61.65, which was an extremely extravagant purchase for a young teacher whose monthly take home pay at the time was less than J$400.

I still remember the closing down sale held before the store  was relocated to Sovereign Centre in the early 1990s; all of the Penguin paperbacks were on sale at sharply discounted prices and I bought a lot of them, some of which I still have.

When I got to the location , the excavator was busy at work, with a couple of trucks being filled with debris.p1050480

Much of the building was already gone.p1050428The intersection will certainly look very different when it’s all cleared.P1050441.JPGA young woman there asked me if I liked what I saw; I said I had known the building for a long time, but that it had been in a bad condition. She said yes, it had been condemned and it was time it was torn down. One of the workmen asked me if I was the client, as he had seen me taking a lot of photos. I explained that I was just taking pictures because I remembered the building from childhood. He said they had asked an old man from the community how old the building was. The man was in his seventies and said he had known it since he was a little boy. The workman then wondered what would be built in its place and we agreed that we hoped it would be something that would be a good development in the area.

I’ve spent a little time trying online to find a photo of the building in its heyday, but with no luck. If anyone has one, I hope they might share it. An old building, a Liguanea landmark. I wonder what its full history was.






Author: rightpouitree

Navigating the real and virtual worlds and sometimes writing about what I observe...

25 thoughts on “The Old Sangster’s Book Store Building: A Liguanea Landmark Comes Down

  1. I still have books I bought there 40+ years ago.

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  2. As we drove by yesterday (the demolition was mostly done), my father began sharing memories of the old Sangster’s store when he first came to town. For his facial expressions alone, one could tell it brought back fond memories.

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  3. Upstairs was the architectural practice of Roy Stephenson Associates, who occupied the entire top floor from around 1964 until he retired to the UK in 2000.
    I would leave Campion and walk there after school and spend time with his draftsman Mr McNeil, until my father closed the office and we went home. Both Roy Stephenson and McNeil recently passed away.

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  4. I would appreciate that.


  5. Thanks for this v interesting post. I happened on it on, and shared it on Facebook, with my Liguanea high-school year’s FB group. I hope you don’t mind.

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  6. Before Roy Stephenson & Associates, was Harold Ashwell and Associates. After Roy Stephenson retired the practice became RBA/Robin Baston Associates at that location for about 4 years before relocating because the building was becoming unsuitable for modern Architectural practice. I always missed the times there., even the duppies that would wake up at around 8:00pm

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  7. Love the Ad board says “Share more happy times” and the memories of happy times spent in that store came flooding back . Although I left Kingston over 30 years ago it was a well used store.

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  8. coincidentally, I was listening to WGBH Public Radio on Saturday. A program where individuals tell comedic stories, and as I turned the radio on, there was a Jamaican gentleman telling a story of his childhood in 1971. The story revolved around his Mother asking him how he had come to own new school books. It turns out after school he would, like many students, spend time in Sangster’s Book Store and his Mother marched him back to Sangster’s, to show her which cashier he had purchased the books from.

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  9. If I remember correctly the person that owns the bookstore also own Mona Hotel in the early sixties, I grew up at 13 mona Rd, Sangster was actually build on land own by Family, before my time

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  10. Thanks for this interesting story. As a child from a family of avid readers, I have fond memories of hours spent browsing through the novels in this store. Sad to see it go.

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  11. @shaggy Love, The First Architectural Firm up there, Harold Ashwell owned the original Mona great House, The Office Building was always owned by Sangsters which then sold out to The Gleaner Company, which up till recently owned it through their Pension fund. Ashwell retired in the early 60s and moved back to South Africa….(Not a Proud moment of the past History of the Office which speaks volumes). At some point the Upstairs if not the whole Building was an old Masonic temple. maybe thats where the Duddies came from.

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  12. What an end of an era! I remember we had some old photos of the Sangsters building from the days when my father, Harold Ashwell had his architectural office there. I will ask my siblings if they can find any. My father opened his architectural practice in 1933, though I assume this was not at that stage in the Sangsters building. Roy Stephenson (who from memory I believe was in partnership with my father for a number of years) took over the practice when my father retired and left the island in 1970.

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