Rose Hall, Montego Bay
Rose Hall is a Georgian mansion in Montego Bay, Jamaica, noted for the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall.
Rose Hall is widely regarded to be a visually impressive house and the most famous in Jamaica. It is a mansion in Jamaican Georgian style with a stone base and a plastered upper storey, high on the hillside, with a panorama view over the coast. It was built in the 1770s at a cost of about £30,000 and subsequently became the property of John Palmer. Hakewill visited the building and wrote:
“It is placed at a delightful elevation, and commands a very extensive sea view. Its general appearance has much of the character of a handsome Italian villa. A double flight of stone steps leads to an open portico, giving access to the entrance hall; on the left of which is the eating-room, and on the right the drawing-room, behind which are other apartments for domestic uses. The right wing, fitted up with great elegance, and enriched with painting and gilding, was the private apartment of the late Mrs. Palmer, and the left wing is occupied as servants’ apartments and offices. The principal staircase, in the body of the house, is a specimen of joinery in mahogany and other costly woods seldom excelled, and leads to a suite of chambers in the upper story.”
Rose Hall was restored in the 1960s to its former splendor, with mahogany floors, interior windows and doorways, paneling and wooden ceilings. It is decorated with silk wallpaper printed with palms and birds, ornamented with chandeliers and furnished with mostly European antiques. There is a bar downstairs and a restaurant.
The estate, and the adjoining plantation “Palmyra”, was passed down to John Rose Palmer from his great uncle.
Rose-Hall estate had about 650 acres divided among sugar cane, grass, and about pasture for over 270 head of cattle. About 250 enslaved Africans were housed on Palmyra estate, which furnished about 1,250 acres.
According to legend, a “white witch” called “Annie Palmer” who murdered three husbands haunts the property. An investigation of the legend in 2007 concluded that the story was fictionalized.
Rose Hall was bought in 1977 by former Miss USA Michele Rollins and her entrepreneur husband John Rollins. They refurbished it at great personal expense and conceptualised a tour and museum that showcase Rose Hall’s slave history, antique splendor and original fittings. Rose Hall also offers night tours that focus on the “Annie Palmer” legend: supposed locations of underground tunnels, bloodstains, hauntings and murders. Seances are also held on the property in an attempt to conjure Annie’s spirit.