It has been 65 years since Mr. Frank Morrow first landed on the beautiful island of Jamaica and immediately fell in love with it.
The First Hotel
In 1948, the Morrow brothers ventured to the island to investigate entrepreneurial opportunities in the tourism industry which at that time was just starting to make headway in Jamaica. The glam Hollywood set had recently discovered the beauty of the island and there was a notion that this was the start of something big.
The Morrows stayed at the Casablanca Hotel in Montego Bay while they set up site inspections and toured nearby properties. Suffice to say, a golden opportunity arose when they stumbled upon a property for sale just next to the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach.
The beach at the property had obvious potential, however, there was one glitch — a graveyard on the property prevented any work from being carried out until the graves were moved to the nearby town of Lucea. Once this was done, the Morrow brothers built a new hotel on the property in 1949 and named it The Montego Beach Hotel.
After a year of operation, Frank realized he needed to hire a manager and the perfect solution presented itself — to fly his son Charles to Jamaica for the job. Charles Morrow brought along with him his childhood best friend and pilot, Matthew Archibald. Together they ran the hotel as business partners and a few years later, The Montego Beach Hotel was one of the top hotels in Jamaica.
Acquiring Jamaica Inn
In 1958, after purchasing several other hotels which also became very successful, Charles and Matthew learned about a lovely property for sale in Ocho Rios.
After touring the hotel and seeing its spectacular location, they purchased Jamaica Inn. The Inn quickly became the main hotel owned by the Morrow family and soon thereafter, they sold the other hotels and focused on the elegant Ocho Rios resort.
At the time, this was only the second hotel operating in Ocho Rios — the other property being Tower Isle (now Couples Tower Isle) which was owned and built in 1949 by Abe Issa.
Expanding the Inn
When purchased by Charles and Matthew in 1958, the Inn, built by Italian contractors the Maffessanti brothers, was already comprised of the West Wing and Main House.
The Morrows expanded the property by adding the Deluxe and Premier Suites. All of the rooms’ verandahs were doubled in size and furnished with beautiful couches, antiques and large chairs, giving them a more luxurious feel.
Originally built for Charles to live in, the Blue Cottage caught the attention of guests and the accommodation was eventually added to the room inventory.
Jamaica Inn quickly became the 1950’s jetsetter destination with Hollywood aristocracy partying with British nobility. The hotel has hosted Errol Flynn (who owned a property in Port Antonio), Noël Coward (who built and owned two vacation homes in the nearby town of Oracabessa — one of which is “Firefly”), Vivian Leigh, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels), and artist and stage designer Oliver Messel.
Sir Winston Churchill also frequented the Inn and ended up painting a scene of the hotel, now owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Churchill was partial to the White Suite and today a plaque sits at the entrance of the suite to commemorate his visit. In addition to these famous names, Jamaica Inn has played host to several international Heads of State as well as Jamaican Prime Ministers over the years.
The hotel was mentioned many times in Noël Coward’s autobiography, The Noël Coward Diaries. For example, Coward writes about a dinner at Jamaica Inn with his best friend in February 1951, and the following day about dining at the hotel with another good friend, Oliver Messel. There are several more mentions of the hotel throughout the book, whereby Coward meets friends for meals or to drive them to the airport after a stay.
The Third Generation
The Morrow-Archibald team continued to operate the hotel successfully until Morrow’s sons Peter and Eric came on board in 1981.
Peter brought with him all of the antiques featured throughout the property including Windsor chairs, side tables and a wonderful collection of Jamaican antiques.
After Charles’ passing in 1987, the team of Morrow brothers took full responsibility of the hotel.
In early 2000 after acquiring the North Bend property as part of the hotel repertoire, Peter and Eric commenced adding the cottages with infinity pools. A spa was also built which was recently upgraded and is now named The Ocean Spa.
Shadows of the Inn
The hotel is also famous for several black Labradors who have been part of the Inn over the years — Shadow resided in the 1970’s, Shadow II in the 1980’s and Shadow III became part of the family from early 1990 to 2004. Peter and Eric as well as the Jamaica Inn family welcomed Shadow IV in spring 2014.
All in the Family
Eric’s wife Belinda is the hotel’s gift shop manager as well as the talented “eye” supervising the beautifully manicured grounds. She also manages her family farm, The Colliery, which is located in the hills of St. Ann, about ten minutes from the hotel.
The Morrow family legend continues as Eric and Belinda’s two daughters, Eloise and Olivia, are set to be the fourth generation of hoteliers, currently studying hotel management.
Mr. Archibald’s daughter, Mary Bergstresser, and Pamela Morrow continue to maintain an interest in the Inn and visit often.
So many wonderful memories of the Inn. Teddy, the Shadows and of course Rudi Schoenbein was always there to see that all went well. We used to go every year in April for my birthday from 1982-1991. It was so relaxing and beautiful! I miss it so much and would love to travel back again some day to see the new generations at work!
My cousin and I have had an absolutely marvelous week here at the Jamaica Inn. This hotel has personality and character. The ambiance makes me feel like I’m in the 1950s. They dress smart business casual/semi formal at dinner. The cottages are so quaint and beautiful, the landscaping is dreamy, and Shadow IV, the chocolate lab was waiting at the lobby to greet us and hung out with us daily for his bacon treat. This place just feels like home. We loved the massages and Dinner on the beach but the champagne sendoff has made us come back for more. See you next year Eric and Shadow at the Jamaica Inn!
Thank you for your kind sentiments Laura, we’ll ensure to pass on to the owners and the rest of our team.
Thank you for your kind words. We’ll ensure to pass your comments on to the rest of the team.
Brought a traveling American friend along to lunch and to savour the gracious atmosphere.
Eric offered to take our photos. Guest was more than made up. Humbling. Thank you Eric.
I have stayed at the Jamaica Inn on several occasions hosting important official Chinese delegations. We all,had a wonderful time and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Morrow. I am also the former owner of the Montego Beach hotel.
Clinton P. Chin
Good memories of the older hotel. I stayed several days after my 1961 wedding in Claremont, before leaving for Montego Bay. (Had my hair styled for the wedding at the Tower Isle beauty shop.)
One correction I spotted – in 1958 there was a third hotel in Ocho Rios, at least in the mid ’50’s. The San Souci. The daughter of the owner went to St. Hilda’s with me, and we had a wonderful birthday luncheon at the hotel one Sunday. Her parents were busy and left us to the dining room staff, where we learned the proper order of what seemed like a table full of silver ware. And a delicious meal and birthday cake.
Thank you for commenting Alice! Good memories indeed!
What an incredible experience. JI is a step back in time.
Peter was an exquisite host. The staff was outstanding.
Thank you all
You’re most welcome, it was a pleasure hosting you.
I grew up with the “boys” in Northwestern Connecticut (and Lime Rock) and as a travel consultant, love to send my clients to Jamaica Inn for all it has been and continues to be. Miss seeing Eric and Pter at the track and at the Woodland. More guests coming your way!
We look forward to welcoming them home Jennifer!
On our Honeymoon in may/June 2000, we stayed almost 2 weeks at the Inn. We loved it and still today we tell the stories to our children on our lovely stay, the Dances after dinner, and this just fantastic Labrador shadow!
Would I marry my wife Monique again, we would come back to Jamaica Inn! And by the way, we today also have an almost 100% black Little dog…
Maybe, if this is not asking too much, I would still like to mention two aspects which (at that time) showed potential for improvement: The Cuisine was not up to the Hotel Level and the pool was just too small… But maybe this has changed already?
Anyway, having stayed at the Inn, I think, we have touched a Piece of heaven. It is great to see, that it is still owned and managed by the same Family. Fantastic!
We were married at Jamaica Inn by the beach in 1983. Had a great party by the pool with visitors stopping on the way back from Cannes Film Festival. The hotel staff were marvelous about making sure we had a great experience. We returned 25 years later for our anniversary and were treated like royalty by everyone. The cottage we stayed in was exquisite and the staff was as gracious as ever. Teddy was still at the bar and Shadow was there too. If we had tails, we would have been wagging them along with Shadow. We can’t say enough about how wonderful our experiences have been. I think the history reflects how the Morrow family has dedicated themselves to making the Jamaica Inn a one-of-a-kind hotel and a truly special place.
We remember the days when Charlie and Archie would be sitting in the chairs just beyond the entrance. We also remember when Poppy would be standing and leaning in the post in the bar area just before the stairs to the dining terrace..All the memories of Jamaica Inn are wonderful. If I close my eves I can transport myself back there to our favorite spot on the beach in the sun as well as many laughs with Teddy, Arthur, and the other waiters.
We always enjoyed dining and dancing under the stars. We had a whole group of friends from all over who would book the same time each year. We even remember the days when men had to wear a sport coat and tie to dinner and if you came improperly dressed your were supplied with what you needed. Oh what ever happened to the days when people actually dressed for dinner?
Whatever happened to Teddy the great bartender?! Margaret Benvenuto
Teddy is still at the Inn.
We remember our first visit so well and were lucky enough to meet Mr. Morrow and his beloved Shadow II (I believe). They were a fixture at the bar. On that trip we made friends with a couple from England who we still see occasionally either in New York or London.
On our last 2 trips, we have enjoyed our many conversations with Peter. Is he still there?
If so, please send him our very best regards.
Brings back so many memories of Ray, Charlie and Archie!