Magical” is how the owners of this residence describe their home, and “magical” it is. Sitting on two and half acres of land and perched on the ridge that connects Jacks Hill and Cherry Gardens, the house arguably has one of the best views in Kingston: at its front, the breathtaking panorama of the city and the hazy blue sea spanning the coast of St Thomas in the East to Clarendon in the West; and, at its back, the soothing embrace of the verdant mountains of the island’s interior. As a result, the lucky owners have their pick of vistas throughout the day, starting with the sunrise peeking up over the mountains to illuminate their bedroom balcony for morning coffee, and ending with the dreamy sunset pinks and reds melting into the twinkling of lights and bright stars for evening cocktails on the front verandah at the close of the day. Magical indeed.
Some prospective buyers may not have appreciated the “magic” of such a home. After all, the single-storey wood and cut-stone three bedroom home is not typical of the area or, indeed, the island. For starters, the major living areas, the bedrooms and the home office are connected by open passageways that form a square around a delightful koi and lily pond that is completely open to the heavens. Large expanses of glass and also wooden louvre windows and doors only add to the panic of an October afternoon downpour when the rain (and whatever the breeze brings with it) seems to blow right through the house. “The rain never lasts for long,” explains the owners, perhaps justifying their willingness to accept the ways of nature and its relationship to their beloved home. Indeed, for this couple who have retired to Kingston after living in the countryside for decades, the house seems to offer them the perfect mix of the beauty and seclusion of rural life, and the energy and accessibility of the city.
Built in 1962 by the original owners, American Nell Bell-Bourke, an heiress of Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) fortune, and her Jamaican husband, Patrick Bourke, the house was designed by American architect Robert Brown in a style undoubtedly influenced by the famed Frank Lloyd Wright, but also with a touch of Bali-esque tropical splendour. It reportedly took the architect a year of just visiting the property in different “seasons” to refine the plans in order to take advantage of the natural breezes, light shadows and the wonderful views through the positioning of the rooms and verandahs as well as through the choice of building materials. Renowned Jamaican contractor George Hart then put the plans in motion using imported Honduran timber, solid brass fittings and blue and yellow art deco floor tiles handmade by Cuban artisans at the old Gore Factory.
Such attention to detail earned the house a feature in Architectural Digest and it seems that the original owners were so impressed with the design that they had a “sister” house built in Port Antonio as a country retreat. The current owners are the fourth owners of the Jacks Hill property, having acquired it some ten years ago. They have only lived here just over a year, however, having renting it out until they made their retirement move. As it is, the house is very much the same
“I just love it,” says the owner, and it is not hard to see why as I prepare to say goodbye sitting on one of several verandahs, the Christmas breeze swirling around us, the mist on mountains beyond Peter’s Rock settling in and the mouth-watering smell of a breadfruit from the property, roasting on an open fire nearby, rising steadily. Even as a mere visitor, I too am hard-pressed to leave a place only ten minutes from the bustling city where “country” has really come to “town”.