George Washington House – Barbados

George Washington House is located on the West Coast, at the Garrison. It’s a stately Georgian-style residence where a young George Washington, the future first President of the United States, once stayed. His visit in 1751, the only time he ever left mainland North America, made this house a facinating site of historical significance.

Lucy Bridge Outside George Washington House

The History of George Washington House

George Washington House, located in the Garrison area of Barbados, was built in the early 18th century, this stately Georgian-style residence was initially the home of a wealthy plantation owner. However, its claim to fame arises from a significant event in 1751: the visit of a young George Washington.

In the autumn of 1751, a 19-year-old George Washington embarked on a journey that would take him far from the shores of his native Virginia. Accompanying him was his half-brother, Lawrence Washington, who sought the warm climate of Barbados as a remedy for his tuberculosis. At that time, Barbados was a thriving British colony, known for its prosperous sugar plantations and strategic importance in the Caribbean.

During their stay, George and Lawrence Washington stayed at what is now known as George Washington House. The young Washington spent two months on the island, an experience that would leave a lasting impression on him.

While in Barbados, Washington was exposed to the island’s sophisticated military defences, diverse culture, and extensive plantation economy. He visited local forts, mingled with prominent Barbadian families, and observed the workings of a plantation firsthand. These experiences broadened his horizons and contributed to his understanding of colonial and military affairs, which would later inform his leadership during the American Revolution.

Lucy hanging out with George Washington

The Architecture and Restoration

George Washington House, with its classic Georgian architectural style, is characterized by its sash windows, and grand entrance, all typical features of the period’s colonial architecture. The house’s spacious rooms and high ceilings, designed to facilitate air circulation in the tropical climate, offer a glimpse into the living conditions of a wealthy plantation owner of the era. The house has been meticulously restored to reflect the style of the time period when George Washington lived there.

The restoration of George Washington House was a comprehensive project aimed at preserving its historical integrity while making it accessible to the public. Spearheaded by the Barbados National Trust and other heritage organizations, the restoration involved extensive research and careful attention to detail. Original materials were sourced wherever possible, and traditional building techniques were employed to ensure authenticity. The house now features a range of period-appropriate furnishings and artifacts, some of which are original to the house or the period, providing visitors with an immersive historical experience.

Our Trip to George Washington House

We were extremely lucky to visit George Washington’s house at the end of the day when there were no other visitors in the building! We could wander around by ourselves and take in the amazing house. Visiting George Washington House is a journey back in time, when you get there you can take in the elegant style of the house, surrounded by well-maintained gardens. You can take a guided tour (we did not) which has a detailed overview by knowledgeable guides who provide context about George Washington’s visit and the historical significance of the site.

As we walked around the house we found a series of meticulously restored rooms, each furnished to reflect the 18th-century colonial lifestyle. Highlights included the parlor, where the Washington brothers would have spent much of their time, and the dining room, which often hosted guests and local dignitaries. The bedrooms were also very interesting, complete with period-appropriate furniture.

Interactive exhibits are strategically placed throughout the house, providing informative content about the history of the house, the Washingtons’ stay, and the broader historical context of colonial Barbados.

In addition to the main house, the property includes several outbuildings. The museum, located on the grounds, features loads of artifacts, documents, and exhibits. Visitors can also explore the surrounding gardens, which have been landscaped to reflect the period and provide a peaceful setting for reflection.

There is a gift shop with souvenirs and books.

George Washington House Tunnels

One of the most intriguing aspects of George Washington House is the network of tunnels that lie beneath the property. Around the year 1820, when Lord Combermere was the Governor of Barbados, an extensive network of approximately 10,000 feet of tunnels was constructed. These tunnels are considered one of the finest engineering feats in Barbados, running directly beneath the grounds of George Washington House and the surrounding Garrison Historic Area, which remains one of the most intact and authentic 18th and 19th century British military garrisons in the world.

For many years, the existence of these tunnels faded into memory after the Garrison was decommissioned in 1905. It wasn’t until their re-discovery in 2011 that the tunnels once again captured public interest. Since then, extensive exploration has uncovered 2,000 feet of a 3,200-foot tunnel, revealing it to be in remarkably sound condition. In 2014, seventy meters of this underground network were opened to the general public, offering a rare glimpse into this hidden part of Barbadian history.

Visitors to George Washington House have the opportunity to explore a section of these tunnels, accessible directly from the house. Guided tours take guests down into the depths, where they can walk through the dimly lit passageways and imagine the activities that might have taken place there centuries ago.

Theories about the tunnels’ purpose range from military use, such as storage for ammunition and supplies, to secret escape routes and smuggling operations. Some historians suggest they were part of a larger defensive network, given the strategic importance of the Garrison area during the colonial period. As visitors navigate the tunnels, they can see remnants of the past, including stonework and markings that hint at the tunnels’ varied uses over the years.

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George Washington House Opening Times and Entry Price

George Washington House is open to visitors every day of the year, Monday – Sunday: 9 AM – 4 PM.

George Washington House Admission Prices:

  • Adults: $20 US
  • Children (ages 5-12): $10 US
  • Group Discount: Groups of 10 or more persons receive a 10% discount on admission prices.

You can pay in either USD or BBD, both currencies are accepted in Barbados.

How to Get to George Washington House

From Bridgetown:

  • By Car: George Washington House is approximately a 10-minute drive from the capital city, Bridgetown. Follow Highway 7 (Hwy 7) south along the coast until you reach the Garrison Historic Area. Clear signage will direct you to the house. Parking is available on-site.
  • By Public Transport: Public buses and minibuses (known locally as “ZR vans”) frequently travel along Highway 7. Board any bus heading towards the Garrison or Hastings and disembark at the Garrison Historic Area stop. From there, it’s a short walk to the house.

From Grantley Adams International Airport:

  • By Car: The drive from the airport to George Washington House takes about 20 minutes. Head west on Tom Adams Highway (Hwy 5), then take the exit onto Highway 7 towards Bridgetown. Continue until you reach the Garrison Historic Area.
  • By Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the airport and provide a convenient, direct route to George Washington House. The fare is typically reasonable and provides a hassle-free option for those unfamiliar with the area.

From Other Parts of the Island:

  • By Car: The extensive road network in Barbados makes it easy to reach the Garrison Historic Area from any part of the island. You can rent a car and use the ABC Highway (Hwy 1) to navigate towards Bridgetown, then follow signs for the Garrison Historic Area. From Villa Sunnyside in Holetown, it’s easy enough to navigate if you just head south down the island towards Bridgetown initially and then on to Highway 7.
  • By Public Transport: The island’s bus system covers most areas. Buses heading towards Bridgetown or Hastings will drop you close to the Garrison Historic Area.
John Ellmore in George Washingtons dining room
john, Lucy, Teddy & Margo at hunts gardenss
Lucy Bridge

I love to travel with my family. Over the years, we’ve found ourselves coming back to the magic of Sunset Crest. So much so, that we finally decided to take the plunge and buy Villa Sunnyside in 2022!