Bermuda’s Architecture

In the early party of the 17th century the first settlers constructed their dwellings with a cedar framework, filled with wattle and daub, and thatched palmetto roofs. Some stone buildings were constructed, notably Carter House. However, it took a few hurricanes and an increase in demand for cedar from the emerging shipbuilding industry before the idea really caught on at the beginning of the 18th century.

The architecture of these houses was (and continues to be) influenced by 3 major factors:

  • Bermuda’s climate (high humidity, the occasional hurricane)
  • Lack of fresh water (none other than rain)
  • Availability of building materials (cedar, limestone)

To compensate for the lack of fresh water a water tank was first constructed as a foundation for the house. Roofs were constructed from limestone slates resting on cedar beams and joined together by mortar in overlapping rows. As limestone is porous, the roofs were covered with a cement wash and then lime-washed and painted white. Specially designed gutters were constructed to carry the water from the roof to the water tank. Not only did these roofs reflect the hot rays of the sun, but the lime-wash purified the water collected. Ingenious!!!

Whitewashed roofs are a typical feature of buildings in Bermuda
Whitewashed roofs are a typical feature of buildings in Bermuda

The walls and foundations were constructed of limestone blocks and cemented together to provide a solid structure. Eaves are typically small, with the windows set right up against them, to provide a low profile with greater protection from the wind.

Another common feature in Bermuda’s houses is the tray ceiling. Named because the have the appearance of an inverted tray, these distinctive ceilings provide extra height and increased air circulation to counteract Bermuda’s hot climate.

Although retaining its essential features, Bermudian architecture evolved as time progressed. In the late 18th century many houses were constructed in the Georgian style; with symmetrical facades and quoins. The influence of the British military during the 19th century can be seen in the verandas of many of the Front Street bars and restaurants such as the Pickled Onion, Flanagan’s and Rosa’s Cantina. Another architectural feature, visible at the garden entrance to many homes, is the moongate.

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