George Washington Visits Barbados
It’s a little known fact, but a very important part of history, that George Washington (the first President of the United States of America) visited Barbados during the 18th century.
A young 19 year old George Washington arrived in Barbados on 2 November 1751 with his ailing older half-brother Lawrence Washington, who had fallen victim to tuberculosis.
It was hoped the island’s tropical climate would improve his health and recovery, so the brothers rented a historic plantation house on the Garrison ridge (on the outskirts of Bridgetown), known as Bush Hill House, where they stayed for six weeks.
Note: Historians have deliberated over the exact location of the house in which George and Lawrence stayed, however careful examination of George’s diaries from that period have confirmed Bush Hill House as the correct site.
During his time in Barbados, George Washington contracted smallpox but acquired immunity from the virus which saved his life years later during the American War of Independence. While his troops were falling ill around him, Washington was able to continue leading his armies to victory.
Although the brothers enjoyed their time on the island, Lawrence’s health became worse and he moved to Bermuda, however he deteriorated even more. He went back home to Virginia, where he died in 1752.
George went home alone, departing the island on 22 December 1751.
Did you know? Bush Hill House the only house George Washington ever lived in outside of the United States, extremely historically significant to both the heritage of Barbados and the United States.
The House Itself
The property was originally the British Military Regimental Resident Engineer’s Quarters and later became Bush Hill House, the Commanding Officers Quarters.
The House is owned and maintained by the Barbados National Trust (www.barbadosnationaltrust.org) and has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1376) as part of the Garrison Historic Area.
In 1999, the Bush Hill Tourism Trust Inc. (a non-profit charitable organisation), in collaboration with the Barbados National Trust, beautifully restored and furnished the house creating a heritage tourist attraction and museum celebrating George Washington’s visit to the island, as well as the role Barbados played in the settlement of America.
George Washington House officially opened on 13 January 2007 and gives visitors an insight into what George himself may have experienced during his stay in Barbados.
Did you know? In 1997, during an official visit to Barbados with her husband, then President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton unveiled a plaque outside the house, putting the historic George Washington House on the international map.
Take A Tour of George Washington House
George Washington House sits in beautifully landscaped grounds with a gift shop and café for refreshments.
You can take a guided tour around the House, which includes a short orientation film ‘George Washington in Barbados’.
The ground floor is furnished in the manner in which it might have been in 1751.
On display are items like a four poster bed, a small face basin and, under the bed, the chamber pot. Other rooms display various chairs, a marble table top, and crockery and cutlery, some of which have been recovered from the nearby gully.
Upstairs, on the second floor, is an interactive museum, highlighting the story of the rich cultural heritage of Barbados during the 17th and 18th centuries with displays of items typical of life during this period of time, with both visual and audio aids.
What Other Artefacts Are On Display?
You’ll see other confronting artifacts on display which remind both locals and visitors of the existence of slavery in Barbados.
These items include barbed-neck collars and variety of agricultural tools. As part of the museum’s interactive approach, you can even feel how heavy the slave chains were – a very interesting experience.
You’ll get to see other items found by archaeologists in digs close to the House such as stoneware, buttons, gun flints, and bottle fragments.
George Washington House is a ‘must visit‘ during your time in Barbados!
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday – 9am to 4.30pm.
Admission: Adults $25 BBD, children under 12 years $12.50 BBD.
Telephone: (246) 228-5461
Want To Know More?
Check out the official website (www.georgewashingtonbarbados.org) of George Washington House.
Author: Brett Callaghan