Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her engaging lectures aboard Oceania Cruises voyages throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, she shares an interesting slice of Barbadian history.
The gentle folks of Barbados wish more visitors from North America knew a juicy tidbit about their enchanting island. George Washington slept here.
In his entire life, the United States’ first president made only one voyage outside of the original colonies – and it was to Barbados!
The year was 1751 and a strapping 17-year-old George Washington accompanied his older half-brother, Lawrence, to Barbados, where the tropical air promised the hope of relief from a virulent case of tuberculosis.
Since the family that they had planned to stay with was quarantined against a tropical disease, the Washington brothers headed to the Garrison Savannah on the outskirts of town where they lodged at a British officer’s home, now known as Washington House.
Barbadians like to point out that George Washington’s visits to sugar plantations opened his eyes to new farming techniques, and that their cosmopolitan capital city, Bridgetown afforded him his first-ever encounter with live theater. He even sampled “Forbidden Fruit,” a citrus bred in Barbados we call grapefruit. He did not dislike it.
Washington contracted smallpox in Barbados. An attentive physician brought him through it unscathed except for the telltale pocks that bedeviled his nose thereafter. Ironically, that setback immunized him so years later he was unfazed when smallpox coursed through the Continental Army. What serendipitous hand of fate may have dealt Barbados a part in shaping the fledgling nation of the United States!
Washington House is a gracious two-story Georgian estate with large, airy rooms upstairs converted into a museum. The main floor features the bedrooms where Lawrence and George slept, travel trunks at the ready and curtains billowing lazily in the trade winds.
A long mahogany dining table, polished to a high gloss with orange rinds and beeswax is set lavishly for two dozen as if the family and guests are about to gather around at any moment. The West Indies-style detached kitchen with its fireplace, kettles, bowls and water-filtering dripstone, belie an era long since vanished.
George Washington wrote in his journal that he found Barbados “ravishingly beautiful.” The brothers parted ways at the end of their stay as George headed back to Virginia and Lawrence sailed on to Bermuda chasing yet another desperate hope of relief from his disease.
Join Sandy’s lectures in the Caribbean this winter: