San Fernando Waterfront | Photograph Geoffrey MacLean 1995
The area around San Fernando’s waterfront was originally an Amerindian settlement. The hill against which the village developed was considered a holy mountain, the resting place of the spirits of the dead and an important point of a triangle of sites sacred to the Amerindians. For centuries it remained a fishing village.
In the late eighteenth century, San Fernando, a small cluster of buildings around the waterfront, was developed under the patriarchal eye of Jean Baptiste Jaillet, a free coloured immigrant from Martinique, after whom the hill was affectionately known as Morne Jaillet. Under British rule the waterfront was known as King’s Wharf.
King’s Wharf is where most of San Fernando’s trade entered and left the city. The ferries between Port of Spain and San Fernando from as early as Governor Sir Ralph Woodford’s time docked at King’s wharf. In 1813 the first ferry was introduced, followed by the Paria in 1837 and the Lady McLeod in 1839. The Lady McLeod was on the first postage stamp issued in the British Colonies. Her wreck lies off the coast of San Fernando, her bell in San Fernando City Hall. In 1853 Lord Harris inaugurated the La Brea and Cedros route.
San Fernando became even more accessible when Trinidad Government Railways opened its line in 1882 to the station built on the waterfront. The station is an important part of San Fernando’s architectural heritage, with its Victorian cast iron structure. Many of the other buildings date from the early eighteenth century and many attempts have been made to preserve what remains.
Recently there have been attempts to introduce a ferry service between San Fernando, known as Trinidad and Tobago’s Industrial Capital, and Venezuela. A regular ferry service was re-introduced between Port of Spain and San Fernando in 2009.
Geoffrey MacLean 2009