If you are walking or driving on Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston, you may notice this old, locked up building that sits between Church Street and Temple Lane.
It is the old J. Wray and Nephew building, at 24 Port Royal Street.
Here it is on Google Maps:
If you stand at the intersection of Port Royal Street and Church Street, looking down towards the harbour, you can see the overhead crosswalk from the Jamaica Conference Centre to the multistorey parking garage.And this is what the building looks like when you are standing across from it on Church Street.An address given in 1975 by then Managing Director of J. Wray and Nephew, Mr. B. E. Latibeaudiere, at the official opening of their new office complex on Spanish Town Road, gives some information about the building on Port Royal Street.
John Wray, a Scottish wheelwright from St Ann, opened a tavern in Kingston in 1825. It was a successful business and in 1862 he took his nephew Charles James Ward as a partner and the business became J. Wray and Nephew. (Ward later became a member of the legislative council and custos of Kingston; the Ward Theatre, which he built and donated to the city after the 1907 earthquake, is named for him.)
“[Wray] moved to larger premises on Port Royal Street, which were conveniently near the wharves – in those days rum was brought in barrels by sea from various distilleries in the country parts.
John Wray died in 1864 and Ward became the sole owner of J. Wray and Nephew. The business developed considerably.
The premises on Port Royal Street fortunately escaped the fire of 1882, which destroyed a large section of the city of Kingston. However, the fire which followed the 1907 earthquake completely razed Port Royal Street, causing the loss of all the old records and documents. Most of the company’s thirty-odd retail branches throughout the city were also destroyed.
Although approaching his 70th year, Ward immediately set about rebuilding Port Royal Street and the new building which went up after the earthquake covered the entire block from Church Street to Temple Lane and business was resumed from those premises in June 1909.”
The business remained at this location until 1970, when it moved to Spanish Town Road.
(Sunday Gleaner, October 5, 1975)
The iron fretwork is one of the most striking features of the building……though now showing the effects of time….Trees and cut-stone paving would make for a really pleasant area… …between the building and the multistorey carpark, if the area was maintained.Vines on the closed shutters……and grass on the roof show nature taking its course….I checked at the National Land Agency to see who is listed as owning the property, but was told that there is no registered title. I wonder what plans there are for this building.