Tharp House, Falmouth

The FGSJ has long been working with stakeholders on the project to restore and find a use for this historic Falmouth building, once the Falmouth residence of John Tharp, more recently the town’s Tax Office.

In March 2023, the team met with Dr Ivor Conolley at Tharp House and Brent Fortenberry, Director of Historic Preservation, Tulane University, carried out a laser scan of the building.

The team also met with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) in Kingston. 

The PAJ has awarded Dr Conolley the contract for carrying out the third, consolidation, phase, on the house. 

The initial phase was carried out over ten years ago by Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR) when Robin Dukes, a UK conservation contractor, visited and spent time with FHR trainees, showing them how to carry out proper conservation timber repairs, retaining as much of the original Bullet wood as possible and using the same timber in repair.

The house then remained dormant for about the next eight years when repairs to the remaining upper floor framing and the renewal of the roof structure and covering were carried.  Unfortunately, all the Bullet wood framing was replaced with treated Pine.  Much useful evidence and information has therefore regrettably been thereby lost.

The current phase will involve repairs in the ground floor chamber including consolidation of the external masonry walls, repairs to the supporting timber columns and the repair of the upper floor beams and joists.

The PAJ has asked the director of the Jamaican National Museum to produce a considered proposal for the use of the house as a ‘Museum of Falmouth’; this may become the name of the building which would inform the works required for its completion and fitting out.  The works here will include plastering, masonry, carpentry, joinery, metal work and decoration.  These will provide considerable opportunities for training in the various trade skills. 

Drawing by Ke Vaughn Harding: how the Tharp House site might have operated in the late 18thcentury.  The understanding of the site has been informed by the archaeological investigation of the site carried out by Hayden Bassett, Assistant Curator of Archaeology, University of Virginia and Ke Vaughn Harding (ex-FHR).

There has been a shared wish that the house and its surroundings should be a Site of Memory, and that the area where archaeology suggests the quarters for the enslaved people were housed might become a garden of remembrance, perhaps with a statue. 

Rosie Dodd