Before The Benab was a website, we were working on a project that included a description of the Bandstand at the Seawall. On almost every website that we visited, the same exact paragraph kept popping up. It ended with "North of the bandstand is the Koh-I-Noor shelter". We kept searching for additional information, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The more we looked, the bigger a mystery it became to us.
If you're up to date with the British Empire (ok, up-to-date is relative), you'll know that the Kohinoor / Koh-i-Noor Diamond is one of the largest diamonds in the world, originating from India and later came into Britain's possession. There is a bitter history attached to the diamond and its acquisition, as well as your standard collection of curses, myths and fact sthat accompany any item of significant monetary and historical value. Today, it is part of the British Crown Jewels even though India still contests ownership.
So. Using our specific set of skills (aka a childhood spent reading Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, et al and somehow managing to discover things by accident), we deduced that the shelter had to have been in existence before independence. The Bandstand certainly was - it was built in 1903 to commemorate Queen Victoria's death in 1901. We found photos of the bandstand before the shelter was even built, which added to the mystery even more. Where was the shelter?
We eventually found a link between the Shelter and the Tram system that existed in Guyana for 29 years, from 1901 to 1930. Of the three terminals, one was located at the seawall. We even researched rail stations and ended up finding pictures that would show passengers and the rail, but the actual shelter was painfully just beyond the borders of the pictures. We started asking around and telling the sad, unfinished story to anyone who would listen, until someone told us that he knew what and where it was.
We went over and he pointed to two small green step-like looking things...almost totally undetectable as it was compounded by the overgrown grass and garbage at the time. That was supposedly the base of the terminal! Plausible enough, even though nothing we had found up to that point in historical images proved that that was correct.
Until! [Insert dramatic music here]...we came across a website with a number of pictures of British Guiana and the West Indies that we had never seen on the internet before. We were searching for something else, and then just like that - an image (see below) that captured the shelter! You can see it to the right of the Bandstand, behind the tree. We later came across another image capturing a piece of it from another angle purely by accident as well. You can see it in the other image, right behind the man sitting on a bench. When it rains, it pours, huh? One may need some sort of ...shelter?
We have to warn you not to get too excited though - it really is just a shed, and perhaps you'd be very underwhelmed. However, the shelter holds a special place in our hearts because this was the small speck in British Guiana's history that lit the fire under us to create the Benab website.
We really have no confirmation that the shelter was used as part of the tram system because images have the line ending closer to the seawall steps, which puts the Shelter just slightly out of the way. Plus, upon further research, we discovered that the the shelter "was the outcome of a memorial paper of the Diamond Jubilee named the 'Koh-i-noor Jubilee Gazette'", published in 1890. At least that solves the mystery of why the shelter is called the Koh-i-noor! We haven't been able to find a copy of this paper, so if you have one or know someone that has one, please pass it on to us - we'd be eternally grateful! Also, if you know what the shelter was definitively used for (or better yet, have pictures!), please share. We'd love to learn more.
The Shelter was unfortunately later dismantled because it became a popular spot for vagrants.
So the next time you head to the seawall in the afternoon with the family, or head out for a jog in the morning, take a look by the Bandstand and you may be able to make out a little piece of Guyana's history! It is definitely a diamond in the rough.
The Story of Georgetown - James Rodway