Guyana History: The house with ninety-nine windows

The house with 99 windows

The house with 99 windows

Guyana Times Sunday Magazine – June 14, 2013

Though crumbling, the house of 99 windows stood as a symbol of status more than 100 years ago. In the 1800s and early 1900s, to construct a house with 100 windows and furnish it with a more than 14-foot dining table were ways of showing to society one’s high status.

This was true of the Hicken family of Berbice. They built a massive house with 100 windows and furnished it with a dining table stretching over 14 feet in length.

David Fraser, 76, and heir of the house, said in an interview that he had read a bit on the building from some aged records that are totally destroyed now. He was unable to learn all the details about the history of the house, but remembered some details.

“My father worked with the Hicken family for many years. Edgar later married my father’s sister. The Hicken family also had a company I worked with in 1958. Our family was close to the Hickens and so they gave me the house out of goodwill,” Fraser said, in outlining how he inherited the house.

The house has 3 bedrooms, a dressing room, and a magnificent dining hall where governors would dine regularly.

Fraser disclosed that he found out the owner of the house, Edgar Hicken, was a non-Guyanese businessman who was involved in cattle rearing and cotton farming. The house was constructed more than 102 years ago and took about two years to construct. Fraser pointed out that it took so long to build because the road where it is located in East Lothian, Berbice, was in a deplorable condition especially during the rainy season. The edifice, he recalled from the records, was designed by a French architect.

The house was originally built with 100 windows, but that would later become 99, which remains the same today. Fraser noted that he would like to dispel the popular misconception that Guyana’s former president Burnham was the one who ordered the window to be blocked.

Fraser said from what he could remember from the records, the governor of that time visited the area and saw the house. While the governor apparently had no problem with the huge house, the number of windows the house had was an issue. The governor’s house also had one hundred windows. As the story goes, the governor ordered the Hicken family to board up one window in the house.

Fraser does not know the reason for the governor to have demanded such an action, but assumed that he may have wanted his house to be the most majestic one at that time.

The house is now deteriorating and since Fraser is afraid of the crime situation where he is living, he is hesitant to have it restored. Fraser does not live in the house anymore but resides in a home adjacent to it. Many have approached him to purchase and restore the house but he has politely refused for personal reasons.

Fraser is still contemplating though what should be done with the historical landmark, and welcomes anyone who would like a tour of the house with 99 windows.

There are other surviving houses built in the 1800s that also have 100 windows. One such is State House, which was built during the 1820s. It was built on land belonging to the Anglican Church in British Guiana. Several governors, including Governor Lyght and Governor Barclay, resided there.

(Photo by John Greene) (

(Source: Guyana Times Sunday Magazine – June 14, 2013)

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Comments

  • icwhy  On May 26, 2019 at 6:34 am

    So sad, isn’t it, that with all the serious and sometimes heartbreaking issues of body and soul in this world, all with which these spoilt, pompous half-wits were concerned was the number of windows in their silly homes!

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