2023 History Corner

April 2023

Samaritan Lodge and The Berkeley Institute

The Berkeley Institute was a long time in the making. Named for Bishop George Berkeley who, in the 1720’s, had a dream to open a school in Bermuda for Native American children living in the colony. He never realized his dream but it would be more than another hundred years that his vision for the school would come to fruition, albeit not for its intended purpose.

In 1879, a group of men organized in Wantley on Princess Street, the home of master baker and property developer Samuel D. Robinson, and established the Berkeley Educational Society. The aim of the intended school was to provide a secondary education to an integrated group of students. At the time, a secondary education was only reserved for white children.

It would take another 18 years for the school to be put into practice. On October 6th, 1897, The Berkeley Institute opened its doors on the ground floor of the Samaritan’s Lodge on Court Street, with Headmaster George DaCosta at the helm. The young scholars were made up of 15 boys and 12 girls. All but one were children of colour.

In 1899, a parcel of land on St. John’s Road was purchased for £300 by a Miss Eve, which became the site for the new Berkeley Institute and where it would remain for more than 100 years.

The Samaritan Lodge had also housed the Bermuda Nursing Association and for some 80 years, the Lodge helped its members with payments for sickness relief and funerals. It finally fell on hard times and the building was left unused and unattended until 1969 when the Cooper family bought it to use as a warehouse for the A. S. Cooper stores.

Sadly, the building was badly burned during the 1977 riots. The Bermuda Industrial Union bought the burned-out building in 1979 and demolished it. Today, the property on which the Lodge once stood is used as a parking lot and is located between 29 and 31 Court Street.

Samaritan Lodge - Copy
Painting by Dorothy Stevens. Collection of Masterworks Foundation.                             Samaritan Lodge. Photo by Ed Kelly. 

March 2023

A Clock for All Time
Once the only clock of its kind in Hamilton, ‘The Phoenix Clock’ has been a staple in the City for well over 100 years. Brought to Bermuda in 1893 by Edwin Troupe Child, a local jeweler in St. George’s, the clock was installed in Hamilton when Mr. Child moved his business to the City, first at Reid Street and then to Front Street. In 1894 he moved his store to 71 Front Street, now the Crisson Building, next to the Emporium, where he installed his beloved clock.

Child died in 1898 and the clock was moved to the jewelry store of Duncan McColl Doe in the old Hamilton Coffee House, the current Port O’ Call location. In 1913 Doe moved his store and the clock to the Colonial Hotel on upper north Queen Street on the east side. Doe moved locations again to the southeast corner of Burnaby and Church Streets, bringing his faithful timepiece with him.

In 1928, the clock was purchased by the Bermuda Drug Company Ltd for £500, a huge sum in that day, and was installed outside the business on the southern corner of Queen and Reid Streets and given the ‘Phoenix Clock’ moniker. It remained there until it was moved to its current location outside the Phoenix on Reid Street in 1990.

The clock was a special-order piece and cast by Boston watch and clockmakers E. Howard & Son. The company went defunct in 1881 and the location of the clock before it made its sojourn to Bermuda in 1893 remains a mystery.

Phoenix Clock - Copy - Copy

February 2023

From Sketch to Skyline

This month marks the 63rd anniversary of the opening of City Hall on February 11th, 1960.

Upon her death in 1933, Catherine Browne Tucker bequeathed the sum of £43,000.00, in memory of her father, to be used towards a new City Hall.

When the Hamilton Hotel at the top of Queen Street burned down in December 1955, the land left behind provided the perfect location for the new project.

Famed architect Wil Onions was tasked with the design. He brought on board Bill Harrington to design the interiors and the landscaping and together with the City Engineer at the time, Geoffrey Bird, the vision for a stately City Hall in the middle of Hamilton came to life.

Construction began in February 1958. In April 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh paid a royal visit to Bermuda. Prince Philip accepted an invitation to view the well underway new City Hall.

Upon its completion, the new City Hall was opened to great pomp and circumstance with the Governor of the day, Sir Julian Gascoigne, presiding over the festivities, along with Mayor Roy Selley. The estimated cost of the build was £250,000.00, about $9,136,00.00 in today’s money!

In 2010, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of City Hall, former City Engineer Geoffrey Bird (1950 -1963) penned From Sketch To Skyline, a memoir of the construction of City Hall. The booklet is out of print, but you can read an electronic copy of it in the link below.

Fun fact – Geoffrey Bird also designed the iconic Birdcage on front street, aptly named after him.

Click the image below to read all about the construction of City Hall.

 Sketch to Skyline

January 2023

Point Pleasant Hotel

If you asked anyone where this hotel once stood, you may get a lot of blank looks but back in the early 1900's, the Point Pleasant Hotel was the place to be! It was the only hotel in Hamilton situated on the waterfront and open all year round.

Once located at what is today more commonly referred to as Albuoy's Point, the Hotel boasted 60 rooms costing between $2.00 and $2.50 per night, depending on the season. Oh, and guests could bathe for free!

What began as a warehouse owned by businessman Henry Cox Outerbridge, it appears the hotel began emerging by 1898 when Outerbridge erected an ornate wooden veranda on the upper levels where well-dressed ladies could be seen. Outerbridge continued with his warehouse on the lower level until 1913 when he converted the entire building into the Point Pleasant Hotel, complete with dining room and parlour, and electric lights and baths with hot and cold water. The cuisine was first-class.

In 1923, Outerbridge sold the hotel to Harold Hayes Frith. In 1933, the hotel was sold to the Corporation of Hamilton for £27,000 in an agreement that saw them sell the western portion of the lot on to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club within the same month as they were looking for new, larger premises. The hotel was quickly demolished by the Corporation and that same year the new Royal Bermuda Yacht Club we know today was erected to the west of the former hotel site, the site which today is home to a park that proudly bears the name of its predecessor – Point Pleasant Park – which the City of Hamilton maintains ownership of.