State House, Bermuda

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State House


State House- 1620 - St Geo - Bermuda.jpg
The State House
Type: Former Parliament house
Location: 32°22’53"N, 64°40’33"W
Village: St George's
Built 1620
Former Parliament house

The State House in St George's was the first purpose-built home of the House of Assembly, which then constituted the only chamber of the Parliament of Bermuda. Other than initial military works built to fortify the islands, this was Bermuda's first stone building, and thus it remains, other than remains of those early fortifications, the oldest surviving building in Bermuda.

The State House was used the House of Assembly until 1815, when the capital was moved to Hamilton, since when it has served as a Masonic lodge.

St George's was the first settlement on Bermuda, as the place where the survivors of the Sea Venture came ashore, their ship driven on the reefs in 1609 to prevent her foundering. The islands were resettled by the Virginia Company in 1612 The Company created the House of Assembly, which first met in 1620 in St Peter's Church (the oldest Anglican church outside the British Isles, originally built in 1612). In the same year though the State House was built for the House of Assembly.

Captain John Smith's 1624 map of Bermuda, showing fortifications and the State House

The State House was built along Italian lines, due, reportedly, to then-Governor Nathaniel Butler's conviction that Bermuda shared the same latitude and climate. In fact, Bermuda's Oceanic climate features drastically more rainfall than the Mediterranean climate, and the State House's flat roof proved to be a problem, with many years being spent solving the tendency of water to pool on, and seep through, its porous limestone. The State House was Bermuda's first stone building (other than the open walls of fortifications), but subsequent Bermudian buildings did not follow its design; what became typical Bermudian architecture incorporated stone walls, topped with angled, slate roofs, all made from the local limestone sandstone. The angled roofs were used as a water catchment, and directed the rainfall into gutters leading to tanks, or cisterns.

The State House housed Bermuda's Parliament from 1620 until 1815, when the capital was relocated to the City of Hamilton. Since then, the State House has been leased to the brethren of Lodge St. George No. 200 G.R.S.[1] The token annual rent paid to the Government for the property is one peppercorn. The payment of this peppercorn has developed into an elaborate ceremony.[2] involving the Governor and the military.

The State House was one of the sites (the others mostly being military) illustrated on a map of Bermuda (shown at left) published in The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, by Captain John Smith in 1624.