Story and photos by FYLLIS HOCKMAN
A few years ago, the fact that an island was the birthplace of the first Secretary of the Treasury would have elicited very little excitement. But now, since the advent of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Nevis has become a must-see destination.
The very first line of the musical, “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean…,” hints to Nevis.
It’s the baby sister of St. Kitts; both are located in the West Indies, breathtakingly beautiful, and constitute one country. St. Kitts is the more outgoing, gregarious of the two; Nevis, shyer and quieter, is a place where goats, sheep, donkeys and monkeys roam.
Alexander Hamilton was never quite sure of his actual birth year, but it is believed to be 1755 or 1757. The Charlestown Nevis History Museum
marks his birthplace where he was born out of wedlock. Here, the history and culture of Nevis are enticingly displayed, but the Alexander Hamilton section is where his remarkable life,
accomplishments, military and political
careers, and impact on the history of the U.S. are chronicled. Of course, all of us are currently reminded of his contributions every time we reach for a $10 bill (which bears his image).
Hamilton brought a very progressive agenda to American politics. His early life (and the horrifying fact that he was born across the street from a slave trade podium) influenced his views on economic diversity, financial stability and racial equality.
Hamilton lived on Nevis until he was about 7 or 9 years old. At the time, sugar plantations were the main industry. Hamilton never lived on the Hamilton family plantation, but the ruins can still be seen.
Several other former plantations are now housing all the Hamilton history seeking throngs.
The Nisbet, the largest of the lot, is the Caribbean’s only historic sugar plantation on a beach. Remnants of the 18th Century plantation windmill greet visitors upon arrival. Those who get married on the property will get a coconut tree planted with their names
on it. Nisbet is the most modern of the inns, with 36 rooms, each named after a
local village, spread out over 30 acres.
Montpelier Plantation, once a historic ruin, was transformed into an inn in the 1960’s and
remains the lodging of choice for British aristocracy. The beautifully landscaped, manicured property with profusions of color popping up everywhere mixes handsomely with the
stone remnants of the sugar mill factory it once was.
Its Great Room boast original
stonework and lithographs from 300
years ago and is where guests gather in the evening for canapés and drinks before moving on to dinner. This is the
only sugar mill in the world that houses a restaurant, a place where guests will make many history-laden, stone-studded, candle-lit memories.
The Great House of the Hermitage
Plantation, dating back to 1640, is said
to be the oldest wooden house in the
Caribbean. When Richard Lupinacci bought the run-down property in 1971, he moved eight old wooden houses from other areas on the island where they lay
in disrepair. Each cottage, lovingly restored, promotes an old island feel and makes the property a living architectural museum. Adding to the authenticity is a slave privy from the 1740’s. A weekly pig roast featuring local dishes and a massive hog on a spit helps one connect with those who feasted likewise over 300 years ago.