The Garrison District
A few miles from the center of Bridgetown, Barbados’ military history comes to life in the historic Garrison district.
Barbados’ strategic location as the easternmost island in the Caribbean played a pivotal role in Britain’s occupation of the region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, acting as the main military headquarters for all the rest of Britain’s eastern Caribbean colonies. Today, the Garrison is home to the Barbados Museum & Historical Society. Once a military prison, the museum boasts an impressive collection of more than 500,000 artifacts that date from prehistoric times through the present, which combine to tell a story of the island’s history.
The Garrison also holds the world’s finest collection of seventeenth-century English cannons and other such relics, including the largest High Altitude Research Project gun ever made. The powerful weapon could fire projectiles ninety-nine miles into the air. The lovely clock tower, known as the Main Guard, overlooks the former military parade grounds, now a public park known as the Garrison Savannah. At any time of day, Bajans can be found here, jogging, biking, or simply lounging about and enjoying the weather. Horse races take place at the Savannah racecourse on alternate Saturdays from January through March and from May through October; the highlight of the racing season is the annual Sandy Lane Gold Cup in March.
Also within the Garrison district is the George Washington House, where a young George Washington stayed during his one and only trip outside of the United States. During his travels, Washington caught a mild case of smallpox. As a result, he developed an immunity to the illness, which enabled him to continue leading the American Revolution while many colonial forces were falling prey to the disease.
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