History of Linden
Christianburg, located on the west bank of the Demerara River is Linden’s first settlement, and was known as Stabroek in the 19th century. Originally, a Dutch settlement, the inhabitants were mostly involved in balata and rubber bleeding and later the planting of sugarcane. It was later renamed Christianburg in honour of Governor Christian Finette who joined his first name with his wife’s family name Burg.
Wismar is also located on the west bank of the Demerara River and owes its origin and name to German migration during the period 1830-1840, when over 500 German migrants ventured on to the shores of British Guiana after the emancipation of the enslaved Africans. Many of the migrants died while on the lower coast of British Guiana, those who lived moved up the Demerara River settling at Wismar. Wismar became a vital central point for the men and women (Pork-knockers) who plied the gold and diamond areas of the Essequibo-Potaro district, and was also the headquarters of Sprostons Limited, the company that operated a steamer service from Georgetown to Wismar.
In 1916, with the discovery of bauxite, the economic balance shifted among the settlements and major activities were now occurring at the new settlement on the east bank of the Demerara River, known as Mackenzie. Mackenzie was named after the geologist Mr. George Bain Mackenzie. It has been suggested that Mr. Mackenzie secured the area for mining operations under the pretence of cultivating oranges on the land. Some historians go as far as saying that “he stole the land.”
Mackenzie became popular when the Demerara Bauxite Company Limited (DEMBA), a subsidiary of the Aluminium Company of Canada (ALCAN), invested in the settlement, and the population of the area increased significantly with the production of bauxite. DEMBA’s contributions to the community were numerous ranging from construction of schools, churches, clubs, a hospital, a recreational hall, and houses for employees.
In 1918, a management committee was established to govern the Christianburg-Wismar area, the first chairman being Mr. R.G. Sharpies. County District status was granted to the Christianburg-Wismar area in 1926 and village status was attained in 1956. The Mackenzie Village Affairs Committee was established in 1960 and in 1967, the two local authorities were merged together to form the Wismar/Christianburg/Mackenzie Authority and was called Marmacburg.
On April 19, 1967, the Local Authority established a Supernumerary Constabulary whose members were constituted as Town Constables. On April 29, 1970, the town of Linden was constituted with an area of about 89 square kilometres (34.36 sqaure miles).
Sites of historic Linden
The Christianburg Waterwheel located on Burnham Drive, Christianburg, Linden, was installed as part of a hydro-powered sawmill on the plantation sometime during the latter half of the 1800s. This hydro-powered sawmill was needed to improve the production of logs and reducing the cost associated with it. It is regarded as one of the earliest engineering structures to be built in the town.
The waterwheel was built by Mirrlees, Tait & Watson from Glasgow, and the company’s name is embossed and can be seen numerous places along the structure. This company started as an engineering partnership to manufacture sugar cane processing machinery in 1840. It was known then as P. and W. McOnie. Over the years, partnerships with other individuals caused changes in the company’s name; in 1858 it became Mirrlees & Tait, and in 1868 it was renamed Mirrlees, Tait & Watson. The hydro-powered sawmill ceased operations in the 1950s, however the waterwheel still remains as a tangible reminder and part of Linden’s industrial heritage.
Watooka House is a three-storey early 20th century colonial building that started out as a privately owned establishment. During the early 1900s, it was renovated by the Demerara Bauxite Company (DEMBA) to accommodate its managers. In the 1940s, it was renamed Watooka House, the name Watooka originating from the nearby Watooka creek. The front façade of the guest house faces the Demerara River, whilst access can be gained from Casuarina Drive, Mackenzie.
Architectural features on the first and second floors include the wide overhangs, enclosed corridors on most facades, extended galleries, dormer and jalousied windows. The guest house has a pool which was once considered one of the finest in the country.
St. Matthew’s Church
St. Matthew’s Church, opened on November 25, 1898, was constructed by the Presbyterians. The church is located on Burnham Drive, Christianburg. The church plays a very important role in the cultural and social development of the community.
This single-storey, low-suspended colonial building faces the Demerara River. Some architectural features for the building are its high-pitched roofs, bell tower, pointed arched windows with tracery, and rose window.
St Aidan’s Anglican Church is one of the earliest churches in Linden; it was established in 1897 at Malai, a settlement located up the Demerara River. It was then moved to a new building, across the river to Burnham Drive, Wismar, in 1913. The first church building was originally a dance hall. The church was consecrated by Bishop Swaby in 1913, but was later dismantled and rebuilt in 1941. The second church, a colonial style building was dismantled in 1968, and the third church built in 1969.
Linden Hospital Complex (Mackenzie) is located on Casuarina Drive and consists of two buildings; the old and the new hospital buildings. In early 1900s the hospital was known as the Mackenzie Hospital. It was one of the major priorities of the newly formed Demerara Bauxite Company (DEMBA) and was built in May 1925 to provide improved medical services to the employees of DEMBA.
The old hospital is a single-storey structure built in 1925. It was constructed using timber with its front façade facing the Demerara River. The 88 metres (290feet) long two-ward hospital was initially designed to accommodate sixty beds and 56 patients; after minor additional provisions were made, the hospital was opened with 75 beds. This building is currently used as the administrative block of the hospital.
Lost heritage sites
Christianburg Magistrates’ Court
The Christianburg Court House, originally known as Christianburg Mansion, was built in the 1830s. The building was owned by John Dalgleish Patterson, a Scottish Engineer. The two-storey suspended timber building was considered one of the largest buildings to be built in Christianburg during the 1800s.
After Patterson’s death in 1842, the colonial Government took over his plantation. During this period many changes were done to the mansion before it was converted into the Christianburg Court House building. Architectural features of the building included its brick columns, timber louvres and shutters. Christianburg Court House was destroyed by fire on April 12, 2011. The judiciary proceedings for the town are now conducted at Linden Magistrate Court in Wismar which was built in 2014.
Mackenzie Hotel was constructed in the early 20th century on the Demerara River bank, and was celebrated as the first public hotel in the Mackenzie area, a short distance from the Mackenzie Hospital. The hotel was owned and managed by the Demerara Bauxite Company (DEMBA) for private guests.
The first hotel was a two-storey timber building which was dismantled in 1956. The hotel was later rebuilt and became operational c.1959. Architectural features for the second hotel include its composition of one and two-storey buildings, some with balconies, mono-pitched and low-pitched gable roofs. This hotel was dismantled in the early 1990s and never rebuilt.