GUYANA: New Georgetown Buildings after the fire of 1945 – By Geoff Burrowes

By Geoff Burrowes
When the fire ignited that destroyed the downtown area in 1945 I was only 3 years old. My dad and my uncle who lived side by side rushed downtown to see if they could help fight the fire and I have a vague memory of all the wives and children gathered together in my Uncle Charlie’s house watching the red glow in the western sky as the fire raged unchecked.

Post Office in flames – 1945 fire in Georgetown

I remember an excitement in the air and a sense of fear but not much else.


I don’t have any clear memory of this either but I was conscious  afterwards that there was great excitement over the building of the new town centre. I understand from googling reports from that time that the architects of the time had designed a thoroughly modern town centre including improvements such as air conditioning and elevators. Purists of the time commented that the town centre should incorporate the old features that made Guyanese architecture unique but the powers that be were all in favour of modern architecture and the new designs won the day.
The final result was very pleasing to the eye, as can be seen in this picture, with the new Post Office building on the right, with the modern architecture very evident!

St. George’s Cathedral (Centre). New Post Office at right

I think in retrospect that the architects got it right – Bookers and Fogarty‘s were a joy to shop in and even just browse (we used to call it ‘window shopping’) a thrill around Christmas with all the exciting toys on display for viewing, either from the pavement through the wide glass windows, or from the wide aisles as we drifted through the store, on the way to the modern soda fountain.
In Georgetown we didn’t have a roller skating rink and the skates were attached to our shoes by tightening the a key on the sides, which didn’t always work so well, so it was important to have a level hard surface to skate on. The new pavement outside the new GPO (General Post Office) was a dream for skating, as the pavement slabs were both hard and level. My faulty memory tells me that there were times, after business hours, when it was okay to skate and times when the guards would chase you! It was a long time ago and some of you might remember more clearly. If you do please remind us!
There was now a large parking lot in the middle of the downtown area and as cars were becoming more prevalent it was much needed. There was also a small garden, with colourful flower beds and benches, west of the newly rebuilt Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society library, where weary shoppers could rest, before heading home. There was also a modern, new museum building, east of that, which was one of my favourite places to spend time, as it had displays commemorating the history of BG as well as the wonders of the interior!
There were two exhibits that I remember that used to scare me. One was the fierce looking, life sized, balata sculpture of a pork knocker on the landing leading upstairs and which you would suddenly encounter eye to eye as you turned on to the landing. When you reached the second floor and turned to view the displays you were face to face with the glass display with a very large black caiman, looking very hungry. Even when I was expecting it it still made me jump! I also remember the display on Mount Roraima, which was to a little boy, living in an absolutely flat town a revelation! 9,000 feet tall!
As a little boy only the toy department in Fogarty’s interested me but I do remember, when the elevator was activated, riding up and down to enjoy the novelty!
We had an expression that fitted exactly ” Never see, come see!”
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Frank ewing-Chow  On 10/05/2021 at 12:35 am

    Geoff, …..Great to hear a gentler discourse on the memories of Georgetown, Bookers & Fogarty’s of so long ago….I too was 3 or 4 years old and my only recollection to this day is a recollection of a fire and resulting chaos and destruction….and resulting sicknesses caused by the fire or toxins released by the fire?? I have tried to find more information and would welcome any source you may recommend. The only other memoryI have is (I was told) the death of my mother and her sister as a result ….that left two families (3) and (6) siblings respectively as “orphans” …and as they say..”the rest is history” are correct in the expression..”Neva see comfuh see”. I still see that balata (?) sculpture of the pork knocker or was it the Amerindian with the bow & arrow???…In spite of it all those are days i will always remember….B.G. will fade a little further as the glut of oil takes over……

  • Kayume  On 10/06/2021 at 10:05 am

    Nice recollections, Geoff and Frank. Was born after the fire (1947) but anything Guyanese will always interest/excite me.

  • geoffburrowes  On 10/07/2021 at 9:42 am

    Sorry to hear about your family Frank!

  • Bunty Phillips  On 10/08/2021 at 2:24 am

    The new Bookers Universal Stores (BUS) opposite the RACS library was very large but did not have a straight front along the street. In the middle, there was a large recessed area, and the sidewalk not only went straight across next to the street but also followed the actual front of the building, so that the sidewalk created the sides of a square. As you mentioned, the sidewalk also was quite wide and smooth and created a wonderful “track”. I never owned a pair of skates, but I do remember going to BUS in the afternoons (5 – 6 p.m.) to see skaters (some of whom were older boys – I was only about 8 yrs. at the time – from my school, St. Mary’s R.C. (“Brickdam”) Primary School) taking full advantage of this made-to-order race track! How I envied them!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: