Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Heirloom properties targeted for tourism, but are hard sells

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
The Happy Retreat property in St Ann is one of several heirloom properties on the market that are targeted at hospitality investors or would-be farmers.
Chippenham Park as seen from overhead.

An online review of colonial era properties indicate that several are now on the market targeted at investors who might see promise in opening them up to tourists, but takers are not always easy to find.

Aside from the view and architecture, their place in history is another time tested calling card for the homes from colonial times.

Well-known properties in this genre that have been redeveloped as centres of business include Devon House in Kingston, Good Hope in Trelawny, Rose Hall Great House in St James and Liberty Hall in St Ann.

Current properties on the market, for which the sales pitches tend to be either for hospitality and/or farming, include Chippenham Park and Happy Retreat in St Ann, Orange Grove near Whitehouse in Westmoreland; Miln House in Hanover; as well as Outameni located on an estate also called Orange Grove in Trelawny.

Outameni was a controversial acquisition for the National Housing Trust, which has struggled to offload the property it bought for $180 million. A NHT source said Thursday that no more bids were being accepted.

A Gleaner Business review of heritage and heirloom properties on the market indicate listings in the main seem to be above $100 million, but ranges up to three times that price.

For many of the properties, their owners often wish to have their identities cloistered. For example, a great house in St Mary featured on the website of Stroll Property Services. The property was said to be once owned by Sir Henry Morgan, the buccaneer who helped defeat the Spanish, was knighted by King Charles II and later appointed Lt Governor of Jamaica.

The asking price, inclusive of the great house, is $300 million. It sits on 100 acres and a subdivision request has been made for 100 lots. Nadine Thomas, realtor with Stroll Property in Kingston, told Gleaner Business that the owners did not want their identity disclosed and that the actual location of the property would be revealed only to interested buyers.

Miln House on 5.7 acres of land is listed by Coldwell Banker Jamaica for $32.28 million. The Great House dates back to 1804 and has "it's original stone structure".




Another Coldwell Banker listing, Happy Retreat in St Ann, has an asking price of US$1.99 million. Realtor Barbara Clarke admits the property has been on the company website "for some time". She is now planning to place it on Instagram and other international platforms for better visibility.

"The problem with the international sites is that they feature hotels and homes, not farms," said the realtor.

Chippenham Park in Bamboo, St Ann, which Coldwell Banker realtor Oliver Mair says is suitable for farming, but which has also been a tourist attraction, dates back to 1796. It sits on a 22-acre spread, and there are 10 adjoining lots totalling 450 acres available for sale. The asking price was not disclosed.

Chippenham once was the home of Joseph Tharpe, described 'as a hugely successful sugar baron'. Tharpe bought Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire for £40,000 in 1791. The property's history is interspersed with family drama. Tharpe wed a young widow in a second marriage who subsequently left him for his son-in-law. She later agreed to a separation, promising never to see the son-in-law again in return for a muscular stipend.

Chippenham was placed on the market by undisclosed owners, who are said to be downsizing. They bought the property from businessman Tony Hart in 1987.

Happy Retreat in Breadnut Hill near Fern Gully in St Ann is a former home of the Fuetardos family. It spans 34 acres. An additional 45 acres featuring a waterfall is being sold separately.

A former owner is said to have found a treasure one day while cultivating - valuable items left behind by the Spanish - which later was handed over to the British Museum. The current owners are Ellen and Horace Sherlock, who are retired and now wish to spend more time with children and grandchildren in Australia and England.

Clarke said the property once used to be a tourist attraction for cruise passenger visitors, but is currently used for cattle rearing and is one of the largest producers of pimento.