Erected in 1812 to 1814 under the supervision of Superintendent Colonel George Arthur. Sir James Hennessy, 1980 – 21 September 1981 was the last Governor to serve at the Government House prior to Belize's Independence in 1981. Dr. Dame Minita Gordon was the first Governor General of an Independent Belize.
15 Facts about the House of Culture / Government House
1. The property was supposed to have been the site for the Court House.
2. The area was known as Roque's Point.
3. On September 1st, 1786, the lot was offered for the Superintendent’s house.
4. The house was built in 1814, under the supervision of Superintendent Colonel George Arthur.
5. The Government house, the residence of the Colonial Administrators, is one of the oldest houses in the country.
6. There were 37 Colonial Administrators that lived and worked in the house between 1814 and 1981.
7. Over the years several alternations and additions have been made, but the basic structure dates back to 1814.
8. The original house had a veranda running completely around it.
9. It is of interest to note that in a community where records and buildings of the past have suffered from innumerable fires, no large fire has been recorded at Government House.
10. In March 1884, the Legislative Assembly, proposed to make provision for rendering Government House fit to receive a family.
11. Government House served not only as a residence to the colony’s leaders but also as the center of the country’s administration, where important decisions, treaties and laws were made and signed.
12. It was the meeting place for the Executive Council for about a 100 years.
13. In the tragic hurricane of September 1931, in which 2500 people lost their lives, Government House suffered from winds and tidal waves and became a shelter for some of the people.
14. Visitors included Princess Margaret who slept at the house in1958, Charles Lindbergh in 1927, and Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay) in 1965. Queen Elizabeth II attended a banquet here in 1994 and ate the “Royal Rat”.
15. In 1996 the Governor General handed over the maintenance of Government House to the Museum Trust.
16. In 1999, the state took control of Government House and it became the House of Culture.
17. The House of Culture will become the new National Historic Museum of Belize.
18.There was a swimming pool at Government House, I believe it was the first swimming pool on the Southside of Belize City. For more information about the pool, click here.
Below are three photos of the inside of Government House, taken by John Hutchinson, in the mid 1960s.
There is only one house I know of that has a semi-circle bay window like that and that is the Government House. There are very few photos of the inside of the Government House. There are two ground floor rooms that are identical. The one on the left facing the sea was where the Governors had his office and the one on the right would have been the dining room. Albert Paul Avila
Queen Elizabeth will give her Historic Speech near where the lady is in Orange in a few years after this photo was taken, in 1985 to be precise. The Governors at that time would have been Stallard, Paul or Posnett. That table was in the left room up to 2020. Albert Paul Avila
One can see the sea through those windows.
Check out the old radio.
This room as it appears now... with the table, but no ketchup, or radio.
The construction of the Government House was started in 1814 and it was completed around 1815. The task of deciding the location and design was given to Colonel George Arthur upon his arrival as Superintendent in 1814. He chose an area across from the Anglican Church (Construction was in full swing at the Cathedral which had started two years before in 1812) known as Rogue's Point where a famous historic tavern by the name of Frost's Tavern used to be located. The Colonel being an aristocrat himself, realized that the monarchy needed a structure that would exemplifies the status and power of the British Empire. The design he chose was based on the famed architect Sir Christopher Wren's English Colonial Caribbean design.
Sir Christopher Wren was an English Architect that lived in London between 1632 and 1723. He designed 54 churches including St Paul's Cathedral, as well as many secular buildings of note in London after the Great Fire.
The Government House you see today has been through two major rehabilitations not including the ones in the 90s and 2019. The original structure may have been a little smaller without a verandah.
For more information on the last rehabilitation of the building, click here!
Major repairs were demanded in 1830 by Colonel Francis Cockburn since the building had fallen into disrepair. He demanded that the house be refitted with furniture as is the custom with other English Colonial residences around the world. The Magistrates of the Public Meeting approved 2,000 pounds for furniture. They also approved a new roof, added an open verandah, improved the interior and built servants' quarters (This would have been the floor over the Carriage House). The Carriage House was built at this time.
The rear of Government House, southeast corner. At one time the rear was the front and front was the rear.
Government House 1907
Governor General guard hut.
The guard house at the old Goverment House, currently the House of Culture Museum.
The British style pillar box needed a restoration when I last saw it.
The royal cipher E II R still legible, we all know it as "Elizabeth II Regina". Regina is Latin for Queen. Photo by George Villanueva.
Government House, Belize Oral History