Concealed in the hills of Rose Hall in St James is the Cinnamon Hill Great House, home of the late American country singer Johnny Cash and the love of his life, June Carter-Cash.
Built in 1725, the Georgian-style house was the couple’s getaway home for 30 years. Cash first fell in love with the lush greenery of the property on his first visit to Jamaica in the early 1970s. He was introduced to the great house by his close friend, the late John Rollins, who was also owner of the property and the neighbouring Rose Hall Great House.
After purchasing Cinnamon Hill, Cash dubbed it “the great escape”.
When LetsTravelCaribbean.com journeyed to Cinnamon Hill Great House recently. It was quite evident why he gave the property that name. To access Cinnamon Hill you must go through the main gate of the Rose Hall Great House, take the first right turn just before journeying to Annie Palmer’s haunted mansion and head to the hills.
The long road to Cinnamon Hill could have you wondering if you have lost your way, but stay on course; you will be blown away by its beauty in a few minutes. It is said that Cash chose to keep the road to his property unpaved because it reminded him of home in Arkansas, USA.
The unmistakable sound of his voice belting out familiar tunes guided our path as we got closer. At Cinnamon Hill, we were greeted by the friendly face of our tour guide, Theisha Nelson-Wint, who was eager to show us around the property and share the history of the great house.
As we entered, the love that the couple shared was the first thing we noticed from the smiling photographs strategically placed on walls and furniture.
Pointing out that the house is preserved as if the couple is physically present, our tour guide showed us a pair of tennis shoes that Cash had left by his piano. The last pair he wore before leaving Jamaican soil, she said.
Artfully placed, they looked as if he had just placed them there after a walk.
Cash’s love for the island is evident in the home as all the dark wood is 100 per cent Jamaican mahogany, and his paintings are the work of local artists.
Carter-Cash’s hunger for knowledge is evident from the contents of her many bookshelves seen throughout the two-storey house. Her feminine touch is everywhere, her love for tea conveyed through the customised tea set that bears her name.
As you climb the mahogany staircase to the second floor, you are greeted by the dried-out skin of a crocodile hanging on the wall. It was killed by Cash some decades ago in his attempt to help a friend, who then preserved the reptile and gifted it to him.
Walking around the couple’s house feels almost surreal because of how three decades of memory have been packed within its walls. The bedroom closets remain untouched. Hats are left just as the couple placed them. Books and VCR cassettes are ensconced within glass cases.
In the backyard you will find a garden where the couple and their visitors enjoyed overlooking the Caribbean Sea while they dined.
Carter-Cash passed away in May 2003 due to complications from heart surgery and it said that Cash died of a broken heart just four months later.
When next you visit Montego Bay, be sure to visit Cinnamon Hill Great House to open the window into the love that they shared on The Rock. The tour attracts a fee of US$25 for foreigners and J$1500 for locals.