Have you ever looked at a building and wondered what was there before it 50 or 100 years ago?
Today we take you on a little tour into the past to show you how a small area in Georgetown has changed over the decades.
You have probably passed the Bank of Guyana and the Museum a hundred times, and unless you are well into middle age and beyond, you probably think they have been there forever. But they haven’t.
At the very beginning of the 19th century there a colonial hospital and an asylum on the site where the museum now stands. Then the hospital was moved to what is now the Public Hospital, and the old one was left empty and neglected for a time.
In 1844 a group formed an agricultural and commercial society, which received royal patronage after they committed themselves to having no political discussions at their meetings. It then became the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society, or RA&CS, for short.
They took over the disused hospital, and set up a library, a reading room, an exchange and news room as well as a laboratory, among other things. The members met regularly and listened to papers on such heavyweight topics as tile drainage, sugar manufacture, plantain diseases and improving cattle breeds.
On the plot where the Bank of Guyana now sits, the society erected the Assembly Rooms in 1857, where the worthies of the era held their parties and other social events. For a few years the society’s Reading Room was on the upper floor of this building.
Disaster struck in 1864 – as it often does in Georgetown – when Water Street went on fire, and burnt down the RA&CS building – but not the Assembly Rooms. The society then had to start from scratch again. They erected a new building which offered members all the services of the old, and eventually added a museum as well. This latter structure was completed in 1867, and the museum opened for two days a week in 1870; the government contributed to its upkeep.
Disaster struck for the second time when a huge swathe of central Georgetown was razed in the great fire of 1945, which started in Bookers Drug Store. Among the many other buildings destroyed, were the Assembly Rooms and the RA&CS. The current museum is what the society built in the 1950s, and while the building still stands, the RA&CS itself was wound up in the 1970s.