Thomas Paslow Building, Belize City, 1960's, plus views from other years. Also a bit about the history of Thomas Paslow and the building which bore his name
It was located in downtown Belize City, on the North side of the Swing Bridge opposite the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal. At the corner of Queen Street & North Front Street. Beautiful Building, very colonial and was an integral part of Belize City.
In the top photo, the arch above Queen Street was for the bi-centennial celebration of the victory of the Baymen at the Battle of St Georges Caye liberation War. The left side of the arch says 1798. It is Mr. John Flowers from Tigris Street on the mule and cart.
The building accommodated many Government offices and very centrally located. It housed the Post Office on the ground floor, Government Ministries, the Meteorology Department, Forestry, Land's Department, The Belize Times, Department of Agriculture Belize District office, The Housing and Planning Dept., and the Lower Courts (on the third floor). The chief magistrate, George Bawa Singh, had an office at the top upper left. The round cement stand in the middle was for the police to direct traffic.
Did you know that Paslow building had an elevator? The building burnt to ashes along with the post office in 2002. It was allegedly burned down, by a suspicious character who had a pending case at one of the Magistrate's Court in that building. In the early 90's there was a gentleman who used to sell hops directly in front of the building. Since his retirement I have not been able to find hops anywhere.
Once upon a time, there was a certain fire by bridge foot, I was obstructed from getting home to eat my lunch due to traffic jam. Queen street was blocked and so was nfstreet. Traffic halted to a dead stop for hours. I decided to walk home to eat. Mad that Kruffy were just too interfering and run to fire but run from rain, I slammed my house door all upset. With only 10 minutes to eat my lunch I shouted to my wife to please get my food quickly. Her reply was, I didn't cook today because I was out at the huge fire . Didn't you hear paslow bun down? Sigh
A part of the rejuvenation of downtown under the Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project is the rebuilding and repairing a few historic buildings and sites in downtown. One of these sites is where the Paslow once stood. For those of us who are not familiar with the history of the Paslow or the man that it was named after, below is some information.
There used to be a Sewing factory upstairs of Paslow Building in the 30’s and early 40’s! It was run by a German who was suddenly arrested in the middle of the night in 1943, and deported, leaving a lot of young women unemployed. One morning they arrived at work to find the door locked barring entrance! Whosoever the man was, he was suspected of SPYING! Not sure what there was to spy on in British Honduras at that time! The population was only about 50,000!
The Ministry of public Works was on the second floor in 1964, just temporarily, until they prepared the one behind Her Majesty PRISON. Those shades were necessary, because in the afternoon the SUN was brutal. AND in those days it was financially prohibited to install an air conditioner in government offices, BY ORDER OF GEORGE PRICE. " Enjoy the tropical breeze, Minister. "
I Remember there used to be a hangout area where the mailboxes were located. There was a step up to reach the higher boxes which was used as seats. Even the windows were used as seats. Lots of conversation were held in that confined space.
Paslow the Building
Before there was the Paslow Parking Lot there was the Paslow Building. The location was named after a Bayman named Thomas Paslow. The Paslow Building was a Colonial style concrete three-story structure which was built in the 1920’s. The building was originally a store and was one of the country’s most central and historic buildings. After fire destroyed all of the buildings that housed the previous Post Offices, the building became the new Post Office on the ground floor in the 1940’s. Later on, the Belize City Municipal Court was placed on the second floor and the Magistrate and Revenues Courts on the third. Ironically, like so many of the City’s historic buildings, Paslow was eventually destroyed by fire on September 29, 2002.
Who was Thomas Paslow?
Thomas Paslow was born in Ireland and arrived in Belize Town in 1785 at the age of 26. He married a coloured lady by the name of Clarissa Carter. There are no records to show if Thomas and Calrissa had any children of their own.
You could say Thomas Paslow was both famous and infamous. He was infamous for the way he treated his slaves. A 1791 court case did not record any statements or specifics apart from the fact that he was tried for ill-treating and mutilating certain negroes based on information given by one Houston Maxwell. The court had ordered that Houston Maxwell and Kenny Piper appear in court to be examined, but Houston did not attend and was charged for gross contempt of court. Paslow was found guilty of mutilating the two men and fined ten pounds.
On the other hand, Thomas Paslow became famous for his stance during the days leading up to the battle of St. Georges Caye on September 10, 1798. He was very adamant that the settlers should remain and defend the settlement. The debate came to a head on June 1, 1797, at the largest Public Meeting ever held in the settlement up to that time. Almost immediately, a group of men in Belize Town said the best solution was to evacuate the settlement and go to the Mosquito Shore. Another group said the best solution was to prepare for war and defend Belize. That vote did not completely quell the movement for evacuation, but its proponents could not get enough support to bring the question before the Public Meeting a second time, thanks in part to the spirited written objections of Thomas Paslow. In a letter to the Public Meeting he thundered, “A MAN WHO WILL NOT DEFEND HIS COUNTRY IS NOT ENTITLED TO REAP THE BENEFIT THEREOF.”
Thomas Paslow paid out of his own finances for the erection of cannons on his lot on the northside of Belize along the river near to the present swing bridge (Pasow parking lot is believed to be that location). The fort, one of the three that were in the town itself, was called Wexford. He also fitted his schooner and offered it for use during the battle. September 6, 1798, The Tickler, the Mermaid and Thomas Paslow’s gun flat departed Belize Harbour in the morning to take up positions at St. George’s Caye.
Thomas Paslow died on 11th February 1825 at the of age 66 and his gravestone states that he was living in the settlement for 40 years. His wife Clarissa Carter died 3rd May, 1838, at the age of 71.
Paslow? “Give us Free”
by Jose A. Sanchez
Why would you want to name a part of downtown Belize City after someone who enslaved our ancestors and regarded us as property? Haven’t we shed colonialism already? This shouldn’t even be a debate. I actually find it appalling and frightening this appears to be debatable. There were riots in2015 in the USA over the use of confederate flags in public spaces. There were many racist people who fought for their beliefs and to protect their “rights” to own people.
Whatever contribution Paslow gave the Colony was self serving. Why are we still thankful to a former Slaver? Why? Why “Baymen Plaza” or “Paslow Plaza”? We don’t want to romanticize colonialism under British rule. The British performed the harshest form of slavery in the Caribbean compared to the French and the Spanish. This is my point, we have a colonial past but we can’t romanticize it. Ask yourself why “our father’s the Baymen, valiant and bold” is a farce? These people rape, enslaved our ancestors for free labor and pleasure, then they left.
We had Africans who called parts of the colony Freetown and Ibo/IGBO town. We know many of our ancestors came from what is now present day Nigeria. How about recognizing them, the people who survived the middle passage, the trans-Atlantic slave trade that made these shores our home. The people that Oaudau Equiano encountered along the Mosquito Coast in the slave narrative he wrote about; the family he left behind. The freedom, culture and people we all became are more important than the white Baymen, the white Governor from Jamaica, and the white slave massa, and the white Bayman and slave owner Thomas Paslow. Why is tale of the hunt is still being told by the hunter?
In 1839, a young African who would retell the tale of the hunted, was captured and enslaved. Sengbe Pieh who later became known as Joseph Cinqué lead a pack of Mende people from the bowels of the La Amistad, near Cuba and fought and killed his captives. The story was memorialized by Stephen Spielberg’s retelling of the narrative in the movie “Amistad” where Cinque and others were forced to take the battle to court. In the movie he pleads for justice and freedom from bright property. “Give us us free” he said and I say “Give us free” from naming anything after slavers and Baymen. Spoiler alert they didn’t like us then and the Empire left, so should we. Why does it matter? Because we are a people still defining our identity while still giving alms to people who want to buy our lands and colonize our minds. Who needs slavery when we glorify oppressors.
A new two-story building is being constructed at Lot 977 located at the corner of Queen and North Front Streets. The new building is one of five structures in downtown the Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project is currently investing in. The new building is designed to host a Tourist Welcome Center and vendor booths on the first floor with offices and a Café on the second. Since the site has been utilized for parking for the last few years, the new design contemplates an area for parking in the rear. Construction commenced in June 2019 and was projected to be completed at the end of 2019. In a contest held to name the building, the new building was named "Belize Heritage Plaza."
The Belize Heritage Plaza is completed. They are looking for someone/company to lease the entire property and then sublet to others. You can contact the Ministry of Tourism if interested. This is the property where the Paslow once stood.