HISTORY OF EMANCIPATION PARK
Before examining the history of Emancipation Park, we must first look at the history of the Liguanea Plain in St. Andrew where the Park now stands.
After the devastating earthquake of 1692 in Port Royal, several English settlers recognized the enormous value of the Liguanea Plain in St. Andrew. Following the earthquake, a wealthy sugar plantation owner named Colonel Beeston sold 2,000 acres of the lands on the plain to the British colonial government for the re-development of Kingston. Before then, Port Royal had been the centre of Jamaica's bustling commercial activities.
During the post-emancipation period and the decline of the sugar plantations, several Jamaicans living in the rural areas as well as immigrants from countries such as China, Lebanon, Syria and India, flocked the city of Kingston by the thousands in search of better working conditions and business opportunities.
As Kingston's population mushroomed, many merchants who previously lived above their business places in central Kingston relocated to the upper circles of the Liguanea Plain now known as "uptown". The earthquake of 1907, further encouraged migration from Downtown Kingston to St. Andrew – Kingston now being divided into two parishes (Kingston and St. Andrew) because of its immense growth. As the business activities and persons who were then considered being from the "upper crust of the society" shifted to St. Andrew, there was now a need for social and sporting activities uptown.
This major shift saw 85 acres of land including the long stretch of land from Knutsford Boulevard to Oxford Road being developed as the Knutsford Park Race Course where horseracing and polo matches were held. The racecourse was later bought out by a conglomerate of businessmen who envisioned this site as a "city built within a city", hence the name New Kingston.
The Liguanea Club, a recreational and social club for the upper class in society, located on Knutsford Boulevard, owned over 35 acres of land including the former Liguanea Park now the site of Emancipation Park. The Club gave the land measuring seven acres as a gift to the Jamaican Government, which later debated on what to do with this prime piece of property.
Several government members argued that the land should be converted into a business district, while others felt a multi-functional entertainment complex should be built on the site. The large financial input needed for either venture, was not forthcoming. In 2002 Cabinet granted approval for the transfer of the land to the National Housing Trust on the condition that a park was built and maintained at that location. The land was transferred for one Jamaican dollar. In July 2002, Emancipation Park materialized and proudly stands as a Kingston landmark and an excellent metaphor of the resilience and strength of the Jamaican people.