Built Heritage: Archlyn Villa
BUILT HERITAGE: July 2022 By Linda Abend and Margie Lloyd, Bermuda National Trust
This post is part of a series of architectural articles by the Bermuda National Trust that highlight some of Bermuda’s endangered historic buildings.
Hiding behind a high wall on St John’s Road is a house with a lot of social history. Built in 1826 by mariner John Gibson, it was advertised for sale by public auction in 1833 to pay off his creditors. Described as “that handsome and well-built dwelling house with a good and large tank”, the original section of the house has neo-classical symmetry and impressive corner pilasters. There were several interim owners until 1871 when the house on one acre appears in Benjamin William Watlington’s estate. After a family dispute caused by the disappearance of his will, the house was transferred in 1917 to Benjamin’s son, dentist Dr Francis William Watlington. It was then named Virginia Manor after Frank’s American wife, Virginia Harrison. They lived in the Fairylands area and the house was often tenanted by officers for nearby Admiralty House, among them Commander Lyson of the Royal Navy who was secretary to Admiral Sir Michael Seymour. The close proximity to the Hamilton Golf Links on North Shore also added to its appeal. After Watlington’s death in 1941 there were two subsequent owners until 1953 when the house was purchased by Archibald and Lillian Minors.
The Minors had married in 1934 and in 1944 they started the Archlyn Villa guest house out of their home in St George’s catering to Black tourists, many of whom were friends from their time studying in the US, who wanted to visit Bermuda but were not welcome in the island’s hotels in the era of segregation. In 1953, desiring a more central location, the Minors bought Virginia Manor, added eight bedrooms with baths and opened the new Archlyn Villa.