Government House (now the House of Culture) is the finest colonial building in Belize, set in its own park at 71 Regent Street. It was built under the supervision of Colonel George Arthur between 1814 and 1815, reputedly to plans by Sir Christopher Wren with a combination of Caribbean Vernacular and English Urban architecture. Originally it had a verandah all around it. It served as the residence of the Governor of British Honduras, also serving as a meeting place for the executive council. It became the residence of the Governor-General, the Queen’s Representative in Belize until 1998. When the slaves were emancipated in 1834, it was the scene of great celebrations. After the 1931 hurricane in which 2,500 people lost their lives, it was temporarily a refuge for the homeless.
Princess Margaret stayed there in 1958, and it was here that The Queen ate the celebrated ‘royal rat’ in 1994. Here the Union Jack was lowered, and the new flag of Belize raised at Independence in 1981.
When the government moved to Belmopan in the wake of Hurricane Hattie (1961), the house became a venue for social functions and a guest house for visiting VIPs. In 1999 it was converted into a historical museum and was renamed the House of Culture. The museum exhibits colonial glassware, silverware, and furniture and houses a collection of archival records. Displayed in the garden is the tender from Baron Bliss’s yacht.
The Hawkesworth Bridge at San Ignacio, Western Belize, was named after Sir Gerald Hawkesworth (1897-1949), a popular Governor-General (between 1947 and 1948), who died tragically in London, when he fell from a window in Holland Park. When he left the island, there was a long motorcade to escort him to the airport.
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