Caribbean Destination Guide: George Washington House in Barbados
by Karen Rollins May 1, 2023
It’s a little known fact that the first President of the United States, George Washington, spent two months living in Barbados when he was 19 years old.
George and his half-brother Lawrence, who was unwell, rented a private plantation house in the capital Bridgetown in 1751 before it was acquired by the British government to establish a garrison.
George’s stay in Barbados was his first and only visit outside of North America.
The Barbadian government began restoring George Washington House in 2000 and it was officially opened to the public on 13 January 2007.
Visitors can tour the house and gain a glimpse into how it looked when George lived there. The ground floor features furniture from the time including a four-poster bed surrounded by a mosquito net. On the second floor, there is a museum showcasing artefacts and information about 18th and 19th century Barbados including medical instruments and agricultural tools.
There are also reminders of the island’s slave history such as a reference to African Olaudah Equiano, who “purchased his freedom for £40 in 1766 (and) worked in London as a hairdresser and a seaman”. Equiano’s autobiography is considered “a manifesto for the abolition of slavery”.
George Washington, along with his wife, personally owned 300 slaves and was said to be conflicted about the trade but decided not to free his ‘property’ until his death due to the huge economic cost.
George Washington House and surrounding buildings are part of the historic Garrison area which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you are visiting Barbados, it is certainly worth spending some time there, and reflecting on the life of a man who influenced history.
For more information go to Visit Barbados.