As far as beautiful attractions go in the ignored parish of St. Thomas, the Orange Park Great House/ Estate is really the place to go. These days it just seems like a rite of passage to encounter such roads to see magnificence. Nestled in the Yallahs Hills, overlooking the Yallahs Salt Ponds, the former coffee plantation which at some point diversified to include pimento and cattle rearing, dates back to the 18th century.
Before the Great House was bequeathed to the Jamaican people it was home to famed artist, Basil Barrington Watson for 40 plus years. Indeed Watson would purchase the place in 1968, renovate it, turning it into an artist colony of sorts, where artists (including Edna Manley) and art lovers mingled and found inspiration.
On the compound there is the main house, three charming cottages filled with art, two tennis courts - now in ruin- and a main studio. Obvious too is his love of painting women clothed and nude. I will defer to the art critics to decipher this proclivity. His remains are also located there.
I was excited to learn subsequent to my visit that his dream of the place becoming a museum and place of recreation is being realized. His widow, Doreen, launched the Orange Park Museum and Barrington Watson Legacy Tours last year after sprucing up the place and organizing the art pieces in his studio.
In 1994, Orange Park Great House was designated a national monument by Jamaica National Heritage Trust. According to an article, Watson's work "gained cult status as owning a 'Barrington' quickly became a mark of social and intellectual status amongst collectors" in Jamaica and by extension, the diaspora. His famous works include, 'Mother and Child', 'Conversation', 'Installation Trust' with Cecil Baugh at the Bank of Jamaica and also a portrait of Martin Luther King at Spelman College in Atlanta, US.
Do visit, as you will be transported into a world of peace and tranquility for sure.
Karen Cadien - Writer & Tour Guide