Falmouth Field Guide

3 Lower Harbour Street

3 Lower Harbour Street, consisting of a house, shop, and the remains of a kitchen chimney, is better described as a domestic complex rather than an individual house. Joseph Matthews, a cooper, purchased this lot from Edward Barrett on November 3rd, 1780 for fifty pounds.1 This purchase was probably a real estate investment as he did not build on his lot.2 This complex and the house at 6 King Street sit on Matthews’ original lot, demonstrating that the large 50’ x 120’ lots standard in Falmouth were subdivided early. Materials and finishes suggest a c. 1810-1820 construction date for the house, which was originally a double-pile structure with the largest room overlooking Lower Harbour Street and two smaller rooms behind. Like other Jamaican houses of its time, the primary entrance to the house was from the courtyard, rather than from the street. Another door on the southern face was probably more private, permitting communication between the house and the shop.

The interior of 3 Lower Harbour Street features an interesting juxtaposition of high-style details with rougher finishes. On the interior, only the shingle lath and some of the rafters are beaded; the framing is entirely exposed and unbeaded. The best room in 3 Lower Harbour is not sheathed, but it does have a tripartite window with deep, neo-classical muntins found lighting the best rooms of fine homes all over town. Surviving interior door leaves, on the door between the north room and back chamber, crafted to suggest a six-paneled door facing into the best room, designate a more formal space, as does a large neoclassical double architrave around the door. In the chamber, a single architrave surrounds the doors, supporting a reading of the north room as the formal, entertaining space in the house.

To the right of the house, facing King Street, is a small, very well-lit outbuilding. Currently a tailor shop, the single room structure exhibits traditional building form and practice in Falmouth. Much of the lower frame is original with joists lapped into the sills, which sit on brick piers. Originally, one accessed the shop from the courtyard, an opening that conforms to the stud spacing of the building. Empty slots for windowsills and the spacing of the studs suggests that the building originally had four six light casement windows in addition to the courtyard door. The door opening to the street is likely a 20th century alteration.

A portion of the brick foundations and the yellow brick chimney of the kitchen still survive. Within the foundations, three square stones seem to mark the location of the kitchen door.

This complex of buildings forms the necessary buildings for the household – house, kitchen, and shop. While only vestiges of the kitchen remain, much of the original fabric remains in the house and shop.

1 Edward Barrett to Joseph Matthews, 23 November 1780, Deeds, Island Record Office, volume 324, folio 193

1 Joseph Matthews, 24 July 1787, Inventories, Jamaica Archives, volume 72, folio 8