Sunday, April 14, 2024

Tunnels open for tours

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The historic Garrison tunnels are finally open.

Public tours of the 206-foot-long tunnel, running under George Washington House, were conducted yesterday through the first of the dense underground tunnel network to be developed by the privately-operated Garrison Consortium.

Vice-president Peter Stevens led a select group from the tourism industry on preview tours through the two-foot-wide tunnel Monday night, and he expressed excitement about the prospects of attracting Barbadians and visitors to what he described as “a fantastic piece of engineering”.

Work on the development of the tunnel had been going on for three and a half years and yesterday Stevens said the interest from tourism industry personnel had been very encouraging.

Barbadians pay $15 and visitors $20 for the ten-minute tour which will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Leading patrons on Monday night along the tunnel which accommodates a group of nine per tour, Stevens shared “hand-me-down” oral history stories about the tunnels as recorded in the book The Polished Hoe by Canada-based Barbadian author Austin “Tom” Clarke.

This particular tunnel, which forms part of the nearly 200-year-old network, originates at the Barbados Museum and is a total of 3 200 feet, ending at Pebbles Beach.

 

Bodies carried through

 

“Bodies were taken through this tunnel to get to the beach where they would be floated out beyond the beach on lighters,” Stevens said. According to the reported accounts, among those bodies were murdered slaves and plantation wives.

Before Monday night’s tours began, “President George Washington”, portrayed by historian Dr Karl Watson, welcomed guests to cocktails in the house where he had dined as a teenager on the only visit

he ever made outside the United States. In the background, violinist Sean Holder and cellist Leandro Layne played baroque music of the 18th century.

Dinner With George Washington begins its 2015 season next Monday and is an authentic recreation of an 18th century dinner with authentic foods from the period, served by staff wearing period dress.

The Garrison Consortium, comprising Stevens and president James Blades, created the event at which Washington joins 29 guests at the table where the five-course meal is served, and regales them with stories of his life, including his 1751 visit to Barbados with his brother Lawrence.

Stevens said the “unique Barbadian experience” was sold out last year with 40 per cent patronage from Barbadians, ten per cent from expatriates living on the island and the other 50 per cent from visitors.

Bookings for December to March 2015 are flowing in, but Stevens said there were still places available at Washington’s dinner table.

In addition to the Canadian and American patronage, he disclosed there was also interest from the Chinese.

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