William Grant Park, more commonly known as ‘Parade,’ is the bustling heart of Downtown, and originally hosted a fortress erected in 1694 with guns pointing toward the harbor. The fort was replaced in 1870 by Victoria Park, renamed a century later to honor Black Nationalist and labor leader Sir William Grant. The north and south entrances are watched over by cousins and political rivals Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante respectively. A large fountain stands at its center.
At North Parade, the distinguished Ward Theatre, built in 1911, once hosted the annual Boxing Day pantomime – a riotous, irreverent social satire. Sadly, the building has fallen into disrepair over the years, although there are plans to restore it. For now, you can admire the cracked sky-blue facade with white trim.
The gleaming white edifice facing the park’s southeast corner is Kingston Parish Church, which replaced an older church destroyed in the 1907 earthquake. Note the tomb dating to 1699, the year the original was built. The tomb of Admiral Benbow, commander of the Royal Navy in the West Indies at the turn of the 18th century, is near the high altar, while plaques commemorate soldiers of the colonial West Indian regiments.
The crenelated redbrick building facing East Parade is the 1840 Coke Memorial Hall, named after the founder of the Methodist churches in the Caribbean, Thomas Coke.
South Parade, packed with street vendor stalls and the blast of reggae, is known as ‘Ben Dung Plaza’ because passersby have to bend down to buy from hawkers whose goods are displayed on the ground. King St leads from here to the waterfront, and to a replica of Edna Manley's Negro Aroused statue, depicting a crouched black man breaking free from bondage; the original is in the National Gallery of Jamaica.