Discover Cacique | The Nassau Public Library

 

In 1973, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and a brand-new black, gold and aquamarine flag was raised in its place. Forty-four years of independence from the crown but The Bahamas continues to hold dear many of its colonial relics. At the southern end of Parliament Square on Bay Street, sits the distinctive flamingo-pink octagon of the Nassau Public Library. Constructed as a jail in 1797, a place of noise and chaos, it was reborn in 1879 as a public library, a small oasis of calm in the humdrum of downtown Nassau. 

 
 
 Photography: David WJ Lee

Photography: David WJ Lee

 
 

ONE MAN'S CELL IS ANOTHER MAN'S OASIS

 
 

History is all around us. Especially around Parliament Square in downtown Nassau where if you stop and look around you for a moment, you can Just Imagine the colourful cast of rogues, lawmakers and breakers, thinkers and tinkers that shaped our unique Bahamian story. 

Before being filled with musty books and archived documents, the Nassau Public Library originated as a lock-up for colonial society’s criminals as part of the Prince George III Act. 

In 1879, this tightly-squeezed public jail, a place of daily noise and misery, was transformed into a public library, a tranquil place of study or a bookish escape from the hectic pace of modern-day Nassau.   

 Photo: oldnassau.com

Photo: oldnassau.com

 
 

A CHANGE IN PURPOSE CAN MASK THE HISTORY BEHIND ITS WALLS

Conveniently placed on the tail-end of bustling Bay Street, what would become a short ankle-chained walk from the nearby law courts, the jail turned public library was actually the first building to set roots on Nassau's historical Parliament Square. 

 
 
 
 

Using native stone, this historical landmark, which is said to have been inspired by the Old Powder Magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia (Saunders, Gail and Donald Cartwright. Historic Nassau) was constructed in an octagonal shape with cells branching from central walls along with a panoramic veranda. Today, these same cells that once contained colonial prisoners are home to books, charts, Arawak artifacts, historic prints, colonial documents and newspapers. 

 THE NASSAU PUBLIC LIBRARY

It's easy to lose yourself in the original colonial architecture of the exterior, but once inside, the Nassau Public Library offers a new experience on each floor.

 Photos from left to right: oldnassau.com, Alessandro Sarno.

Photos from left to right: oldnassau.com, Alessandro Sarno.

 
 

 Located on the upper floor are newspaper clippings that date back as far as 1784 including a well-worn “View of a Silk Cotton Tree on the Island of New Providence” which shows the old prison in the backdrop. The second floor contains newspapers along with old books, artifacts and magazines, while the bottom floor is home to yet more books and a choice of peaceful reading rooms in which to enjoy them.  

DISCOVER CACIQUE | HISTORIC EXPERIENCES

Sometimes a library isn't all about books. At Cacique, we love to tell stories about the characters and places that coloured the rich tapestry of our Bahamian history. For more information on historic experiences with Cacique International and to arrange a tour of The Nassau Public Library, please contact us.

Looking forward to telling you more stories!  ;)SS