Having known the previous owner, the late John Binns, many moons ago, and having a past association to this place before it was turned into a commercial enterprise, I was compelled to go there, whilst on my recent trip to Jamaica, to reconnect with past memories and to see what alterations, if any, had been made. In his day, Mr. Binns had converted the outer buildings into bungalows for rental; but they have since been reclaimed, and are now a part of the tour; in particular, the kitchen. The place, itself, is still every bit as intriguing as I remember it from my youth. With maturity, I was now able to see some of the objet d’art and antiquities with new eyes, and a fresh appreciation of their historical and artistic significance.
The old great-house, stands proudly on a hill, with a commanding view of the Caribbean, from its upper verandah. It was very hot, and somewhat stuffy, as we toured throughout the house, mid-afternoon (the wrong time of day to visit), but the sea breeze from the verandah, was oh so sweet! Needless to say, we spent quite a while there, drinking in the panoramic splendour from this vantage point, which is simply breathtaking, and getting rejuvenated by nature’s delightful air-conditioning.
Most of Greenwood’s eclectic contents are antiques of European origin, although there are a few pieces of Chinoiserie included throughout. As I recall, although a lot of the items originated from the Moulton-Barrett era, many pieces in the collection were acquisitions of the previous owner. Of the furniture, some of the period pieces are clever and unique in their design, provoking one’s curiosity and interest. In addition, it contains a vast array of museum-quality musical pieces. Many of these are still in working order, and the guide will play them for you. This assemblage, alone, would make a visit worthwhile if you are a music historian. There are also the requisite relics of the plantation era and slavery.
On the downside:
As a lover of art, this was the one component of the tour that I found lacking, and even somewhat confusing. Most of the paintings and prints are uninspiring, some bearing no relevance to the house’s heritage. For instance, there is an awful portrait of the current owner of the house, prominently displayed in one of the main salons, which I found to be very distracting, and it definitely detracted from all the historical pieces within. Rendered in a contemporary style, it stood out like a sore thumb!
The narration that the tour guide provided, although informative and educational, was obviously scripted, overly-rehearsed, and enunciated to an extreme excess; so much so, that it made her seem to appear robotic! My party and I discussed this afterwards, and concurred that her delivery, being so unnatural and over-the-top, actually made us cringe in discomfort at times…think of your reaction to really bad acting.
At the end of the tour, we were led back into the old kitchen, which is now treated as a reception area, as well as an adjoining area set up with tables and chairs for possible refreshments (?). To tell the truth, we never stuck around to find out, even though my friend had offered to treat us, because the lady of the house was in the midst of bickering, audibly, with her husband, and our known presence did not deter her rant. This I felt was very unprofessional and disrespectful of her. Not a good way for us to end the tour, since witnessing this embarrassing display left us all with a sour after-taste which lingered.
With that said, would I recommend this place? Probably yes. If you are a history buff, Greenwood is rich with it, and will illuminate you to a bygone era of Jamaica in its heyday of sugar production, when the plantation owners lived in grandeur, and slavery existed. However, I feel that, starting from the very top, the people there need to re-examine how they appear to their patrons. Were it not for this factor, the attraction would have received the top rating from me!
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