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State House, Bermuda

State House, Bermuda

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The State House in St. George's
St. George's, Bermuda
St. George's , located on the island and within the parish of the same names, was the first permanent settlement on the islands of Bermuda, and is often described as the third successful English settlement in the Americas, after St. John's, Newfoundland, and Jamestown, Virginia. However, St...

 was the first purpose-built home of the House of Assembly
House of Assembly of Bermuda
The House of Assembly is the lower house of the Parliament of Bermuda. The house has 36 members, each elected for a five year term in a single seat constituencies....

, which then constituted the only chamber of the Parliament
Parliament of Bermuda
Parliament has two chambers. Originally, there was only one, the House of Assembly, which held its first session in 1620, making Bermuda's Parliament amongst the World's oldest legislatures. An appointed Privy Council originally performed roles similar to that of an upper house, and of a cabinet...

 of Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

. Other than fortifications, it was Bermuda's first stone building. It is the oldest surviving Bermudian building, again excepting some fortifications, and has been used since 1815 as a Masonic
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...


Bermuda was settled, unintentionally, in 1609, by the Virginia Company
London Company
The London Company was an English joint stock company established by royal charter by James I of England on April 10, 1606 with the purpose of establishing colonial settlements in North America.The territory granted to the London Company included the coast of North America from the 34th parallel ...

, when its flagship Sea Venture
Sea Venture
The Sea Venture was a 17th-century English sailing ship, the wrecking of which in Bermuda is widely thought to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest...

was driven onto the reefs off St. George's Island
St. George's Island, Bermuda
St. George's Island is one of the main islands of the territory of Bermuda. It lies in the northeast of the territory. It is divided between the town of St. George's and St. George's Parish...

 to prevent her foundering. The survivors, 150 human settlers and crew members and one dog, spent most of the next year on St. George's, before most resumed their voyage to Jamestown
Jamestown, Virginia
Jamestown was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607 , it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States, following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke...

, Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in two newly-constructed ships Deliverance and Patience. The archipelago was officially settled in 1612, when the Virginia Company's Third Charter extended the boundaries of Virginia far enough across the Atlantic to include Bermuda. Settlers and Governor Richard Moore arrived that year aboard Plough to join the three men left behind in 1610. After a brief period on neighbouring Smith's Island
Smith's Island, Bermuda
Smith's Island is part of the chain which makes up Bermuda. It is located in St. George's Parish, in the northeast of the territory.The 61 acre island is located close to the northern entrance to St. George's Harbour, east of the town of St. George's to the south of the slightly smaller Paget...

, where they found the original three, the settlers moved to St. George's where they founded the town of the same name. The Virginia Company created a system of government that included the appointed Governor
Governor of Bermuda
The Governor of Bermuda is the representative of the British monarch in the British overseas territory of Bermuda. The Governor is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the British government...

 and an elected House Assembly, which held its first session in 1620 (the first assembly having been created in 1619). With no premises of its own, the House of Assembly originally met in St. Peter's Church
St. Peter's Church, St. George's
St. Peter's Church, in St. George's, Bermuda, is the oldest surviving Anglican church in continuous use outside the British Isles. It is also reportedly the oldest continuously used Protestant church in the New World. A UNESCO World Heritage Site , St...

 (the oldest Anglican church outside of the British Isles, having originally been built in 1612, though storms required it to be subsequently rebuilt on several occasions). A purpose-built home was created for the House of Assembly in 1620.
The State House was built along Italian lines, due, reportedly, to then-Governor Nathaniel Butler's conviction that Bermuda shared the same latitude and climate. In fact, Bermuda's Oceanic climate
Oceanic climate
An oceanic climate, also called marine west coast climate, maritime climate, Cascadian climate and British climate for Köppen climate classification Cfb and subtropical highland for Köppen Cfb or Cwb, is a type of climate typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of some of the...

 features drastically more rainfall than the Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

, and the State House's flat roof proved to be a problem, with many years being spent solving the tendency of water to pool on, and seep through, its porous limestone. The State House was Bermuda's first stone building (other than the open walls of fortifications), but subsequent Bermudian buildings did not follow its design; what became typical Bermudian architecture incorporated stone walls, topped with angled, slate roofs, all made from the local limestone sandstone. The angled roofs were used as a water catchment, and directed the rainfall into gutters leading to tanks, or cisterns.

The State House housed Bermuda's Parliament from 1620 until 1815, when the capital was relocated to the City of Hamilton
Hamilton, Bermuda
Hamilton is the capital of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. It is the territory's financial centre and a major port and tourist destination.-Geography:...

. Since then, the State House has been leased to a Scottish Free Masonic
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

Masonic Lodge
This article is about the Masonic term for a membership group. For buildings named Masonic Lodge, see Masonic Lodge A Masonic Lodge, often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge, is the basic organisation of Freemasonry...

. The token annual rent paid to the Government for the property is one peppercorn
Peppercorn (legal)
A peppercorn in legal parlance is a metaphor for a very small payment, a nominal consideration, used to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. "A peppercorn does not cease to be good consideration if it is established that the promisee does not like pepper and will throw...

. The payment of this peppercorn has developed into an elaborate ceremony involving the Governor and the military
Military of Bermuda
The defence of Bermuda remains the responsibility of the National Government, rather than of the Bermudian Government, which is effectively a local authority. Despite this, the Bermuda Government was historically responsible for maintaining Militia for the defence of the Colony...


The State House was one of the sites (the others mostly being military) illustrated on a map of Bermuda (shown at left) published in The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles
The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles
The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles is a book written by Captain John Smith, first published in 1624. The book is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, histories of the territory administered by the Virginia Company....

, by Captain John Smith
John Smith of Jamestown
Captain John Smith Admiral of New England was an English soldier, explorer, and author. He was knighted for his services to Sigismund Bathory, Prince of Transylvania and friend Mózes Székely...

in 1624.