Kingston, Jamaica

Mapping Urbanization and Social Change

Urban Growth and Town Expansion

Between 1921 and 1943 the East Indian population grew from 1,700 to 4,000 and 43% increase. The Chinese immigrant population increased from 1.3% to 2.6%.(Clarke, 2006, p. 59) During the Jamaica Exhibition in 1891 a wave of Syrian came for the exhibition and decided to immigrate to the island. By 1960, there was just over 1,000 Syrians in Jamaica.

Figure 1: Racial Composition of Kingston and the Suburban St. Andrew and Jamaica, 1943 from Kingston, Jamaica.

In 1907, the government intervened to expand the city and developed urban areas after another earthquake in that year destroyed buildings in the southern and eastern areas of the city. In addition, a fire ravaged the commercial district south of Parade. Land was acquired on both sides of King Street between Barry and Tower Streets and public buildings, previously scattered through the city, were relocated there. The British government provided a grant and a loan to be distributed to property owners for redevelopment. The government reconstructed residence as far as Halfway Tree.

Post Emancipation, two more zones were added to the city limits. By 1848, new home were built in the west, north, and east. Settlements such as Rae Town, Brown’s Town, Lindo’s Town, Smith Village, and Hannah’s Town were added to the city limits along with suburbs such as Fletcher’s Town, Kingston Gardens, Allman Town, Franklin Town, and Passmore Town. By 1920, several of these districts were heavily populated with tenements (Clarke, 2006, p. 61) and the marshes in the Southwestern area of Kingston were filled and housing or compounds were constructed.

Barely any of the elite white lived in town by 1860. They lived on the outskirts. The Syrians joined them in the 1940s as they were more accepted by the whites than the Jews, Chinese, East Indians, and African descendant Jamaican.

Figure 2: A map from Kingston Jamaica that shows each addition to the Kingston as it grows.

Due to population increase and the high density of poverty in 1935, slums developed in east and West Kingston. As a remedy Smith Village and Back O’Wall among other areas in the west were demolished and rehousing was prepared in Denham Town. Unfortunately, this only accommodated 3,000 and left more than one sixth of the people without homes. By 1943, overcrowding was extensive and many of the poor lived roughly nine people to one-room dwellings. Of course, this lead to public health problems. Diseases such as tuberculosis, dysentery and enteric fever rampantly spread.

Land for industrial use expanded in the 40s to most of downtown Kingston. By the 60s the suburbs were up against the foothills of the Blue Mountains and eventually the first suburb beyond Liguanea Plain to the east of the mountains, Harbor View, was developed.

Table Credit: 

Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.

Map Credit:

Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.


Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.

Clarke, C. G., & Hodgkiss, A. G. (1974). Jamaica in maps. London: University of London Press.

Figueredo, D. H., & Argote-Freyre, F. (2008). A brief history of the Caribbean. New York: Facts on File.



This entry was posted on August 18, 2012 by and tagged , , , .
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