The history of Kingston is tied up with Jamaica's history of Spanish occupation in the 17th century. During that time, the capital city in Jamaica was Spanish Town, located ten miles inland, and the major commercial center of the island was a town called Port Royal. In 1692, a major earthquake severely damaged Port Royal, and refugees fled and settled in the area that is now Kingston. Soon, plans for a city were drawn up by a surveyor named John Goffe, and the city was named Kingston in honor of British King William of Orange. The city soon thrived and became the largest town on the island.

Trade and Disaster

    The 18th century saw Kingston become a major center of trade thanks to its strategically located port. Traders soon became rich and built elaborate houses, and merchants and workers came to the city in droves to share in the profits. A series of natural disasters kept this growth in check: a hurricane swept through the city in 1748; a fire raged in 1843; in 1850 a cholera epidemic plagued Kingston; another fire occurred in 1862; and a severely devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1907.

Independence and the 20th Century

    In 1872, government offices were moved to Kingston, and the city was declared the new capitol of Jamaica. In 1962, the island was granted independence from British rule. The 20th century was a period of growth for Kingston, consisting of the formation of trade unions and political parties, expansion and redevelopment of the waterfront area, and Kingston's renown as a center of Rastafarian culture.