Direction: Downtown

After last week’s panoramic introduction to downtown Kingston, let’s continue the journey down the major thoroughfare leading south … King Street.

Watch out for the bucket!

Direction: downtown

This part of the drive always gets me down — I expected all of the downtown neighbourhoods to be bustling hives of criminal activity, but the reality is sadder perhaps, because of the almost total abandonment of the area by both the good and the wicked. All that’s left are empty streets, derelict buildings, piles of rubbish and rubble on the pavements, and the rare pedestrian here seems to be hurrying to pass through this no-man’s land to a place less lifeless.

Fortunately, not all of downtown is so sad and deserted, as you will soon see.

Cross Roads

While other place spellings may vary in Jamaica (Savannah-La-Mar, Savanna-La-Mar or Savanna la mar; Acadia or Arcadia), Cross Roads in Kingston is defiantly two separate words. A few years ago, it was considered to mark the frontier between uptown and downtown Kingston, although these days, one could argue the urban decay is still creeping northwards.

Uptown refers to the main commercial district of New Kingston and the affluent suburbs of the Liguanea Plain and the foothills of the mountains to the north. Downtown is the old heart of the city, now largely abandoned and derelict. To give an idea of the separation in the city, there are uptown folk who have lived in Kingston all their lives, who fly to Miami to shop at the weekend, go skiing in Colorado, and who have never crossed Cross Roads.

Historically, the name “Cross Roads” has only been in use for about a century, but its association as a place of danger or death is much older.

It was formerly known as Montgomery Corner, supposedly after a Lieutenant Montgomery, who was thrown from his horse while near the west gate of Up Park Camp and dragged to this spot, where he died. But long before the episode of Lieutenant Montgomery, this location was a busy cross roads, and a place of public hangings.
(Source: Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior)

Crossroads are often associated with transition or changes of state, and can be considered as liminal or threshold places through which travellers must pass and make important decisions or undergo radical changes. This is a very widespread theme, stretching across time and space, from Oedipus meeting and killing his father at a crossroads, to blues pioneer Robert Johnson supposedly selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in return for musical talent. (Read more examples …)

Crossroads therefore seem to have some powerful symbolic association in the human psyche … and also give me enough ideas to waffle about while you wait for the QuickTime panorama to load!


Photos taken on Easter Sunday, around 2 pm. The relatively low volume of traffic meant that I only had about a dozen artefacts and ghosts (moving objects crossing overlapping photo images) to correct, and the errors that remain are almost invisible at this resolution. For a handheld panorama of a street scene, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

… although the hotspots seem to have shrunk.

Fact of life

Not every ugly duckling grows up to be a swan.

Duck head

And that’s just fine.

Hope Gardens kids

Business as usual

Business as usual
(click to enlarge)

North Street marks the top of the grid layout of downtown Kingston, running west from South Camp Road, where I took another photo recently.

Unlike the road to the cricket ground, used by visitors to the cricket world cup, North Road has literally been bypassed. The only sign of improvement is the bright yellow line on the kerb, probably painted by female residents paid for a single day’s work by a local caïd.

Now why’s that car parked by a yellow line?

View from the hills

If you are patient enough for the panorama to load (1.42MB; need free Quicktime player?), you’ll see a view from the northern foothills looking south towards Kingston harbour. You can move the panorama using the controls indicated in the bar at the bottom, or just click and drag the image around. You may also notice in the bottom bar the names of some landmarks and districts that I highlighted with “hotspots”.

[QUICKTIME 480 360]