Attractions in Roseau, Dominica

For the adventurers and the hikers, the countryside of Dominica has a world to offer. But for the day visitors and those who do not wish to get their feet wet, their boots dirty, there still is much to do on the island. And you do not truly experience the whole package, until you have in fact spent some time in the Capital of Roseau. Although a detailed tour of the compact city can be accomplished in just a few hours, there are many architectural, historical, and natural features to keep you captive for the duration. Combine these elements with the charm and curiosity of the local dwellers, and your entire trip becomes a colorful and captivating experience. Roseau is populated by many traditional West Indian style homes, with their gingerbread trim, jalousies windows and cascading balconies, as well as the colonial town houses and colonial public and government buildings. A short and effortless walk through the interwoven streets will go by many of these featured attractions. Roseau is described as a quaint city of verandas decorated with intricate fretwork.

While touring through Roseau you will encounter sites and attractions which are known for the architectural, historical, or social value. Many of the attractions have two or more of these elements. From an architectural aspect, in addition to the quaint residential buildings found scattered throughout the town, there are many featured places of interest for the visitor, most which historically served as colonial government or public places. One of the more prominent historical and architectural wonders is the Cathedral of our Lady of Fair Haven, or the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It is built in a style described as Gothic-Romanesque Revival, and was erected by French lumber men who first settled in Roseau before 1730. A visit may just coincide with the daily reverent masses taking place, and while there you can see the original stained glass windows which are still intact.

When the British succeeded the French in 1763, they found a small wooden fort already established on a hill which overlooked the landing place and central square of Roseau. In 1770, the work to produce a stronger stone fort Fort Young began in earnest. In the late 1950’s it was used as the main police station. In 1964 the property was purchase by local businessman and it was converted into a hotel, The Fort Young Hotel. This hotel is established on Victoria Street. Following along this same street to the south, you will come to three main colonial governments building which date back to the 1700s and 1800’s: The Government House, the Public Library, and the Dominica House of Assembly. The Public Library or the Victoria memorial building was first used as a reading room, in 1911 was turned into a museum. Today it serves the general public as a library, but there are plans to move the library facility out and revive structure as a historical museum. It is architecturally intact; the only key feature missing is the fountain which was located on the southern end of the gardens.

The Government House or the state house was the official home to the representative of the British crown. It was the most important house on the island for all authority emanated from that house during its time. It was an office, an entertainment center and a guest house for distinguished visitors. Today the house is vacant, but remains in great condition and is a grand historic edifice. The rolling driveway, the palms that grace the driveway and the array of palms and trees that populate are all original features of the once very popular and revered place. Post colonialism, the place was used by heads of state to host lavish functions and to entertain visiting dignitaries. Many remember the grandeur and stateliness of its time.

Bordering the Government House on the southern end is the Dominica House of Assembly. This was originally built in 1811, served as Court house, registry, theatre, place of Anglican worship. Burnt down in 1979 by arsonist it was reconstructed in 1994. This edifice retains most of the original features and is currently used as the official gathering place for the cabinet and senate meetings.

Along the “Bayfront” or Dame Eugenia Boulevard, is Dominica’s oldest surviving administrative building, the Post Office built in 1810. It is now the Roseau Museum and on display are vintage photos, sketches, Arawak pottery and Carib art. There are educational exhibits on a wide array of subject matter relating to the islands geology, its anthropology and history. The site was restored to its original state.

Also located along the Bay front, The Roseau City Council building is noteworthy as one of the last surviving slave trading compounds in the Caribbean. In this little prison of a place, known to all traders as the barracoon, the business of slave arrivals and auctions were conducted. The Dawbiney Market or the Old Market Plaza or La Place: this cobbled square is located in what was historically referred to as the French Quarter. Originally set up as market plaza of, this market become the heart of Roseau, up until a new market was built in 1971 to be used for trade of organic matter. The Old Market Plaza was a public meeting place, where executions, slave trading, political rallies took place. It bears the original cobblestone paving and the original market structure still stands. Today it is a vendors market where souvenirs and handcrafts are sold.

There are few gardens and fewer still public open spaces remaining in Roseau. However, there is one remaining major attraction of Roseau, which is rivaled by most other islands, and that is the Botanical Gardens which dates back to the late 1800’s. In this semi enclosed space, one will find 40 acres of lush lawn planted with unique species of plants and trees. It includes an aviary or bird sanctuary which the Jaco and Sisserou Parrot (the national bird) are kept. The gardens are used publicly for recreational purposes.

 

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