View of New Plymouth prior to the 1932 hurricane, taken from the hill east of town. The cemetery is on the left. On the right, the dark, two-story building is the government building/jail and the larger, light-coloured building behind it is the Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.
Though there exist a number of first-hand accounts of the destruction wrought by the 1932 hurricane, there truly is nothing like a photograph to convey the full magnitude of the devastation. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to receive a group of never-before-published photos, taken on Green Turtle Cay in the days following the storm.
View of New Plymouth after the 1932 hurricane. The Methodist Church has been destroyed, and the top floor of the government building is gone.
The images are from the collection of Jack Mertland Malone from Hope Town and later, Nassau. I’ve included his original notes in quotation marks beneath each image.
“The Jail” Behind these men is the lower floor of the government building, which housed the jail. It was the only part of the building left after the storm, and it remains standing today.
Many thanks to Mr. Malone’s granddaughter, Marysa Malone, and Wayne Neely, Bahamian meteorologist and author of The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, for sharing these rare photographs.
Marysa’s grandfather, Jack Mertland Malone, is pictured in a few of these images, but I’d love to be able to identify the other people shown. If you know who they are, or recognize any of the houses or locations, please let me know.
“Stone Church – 100 Years Old” I believe these may be the remains of the Methodist Church. Does anyone know for sure?
“The Quarry – Where Hundreds Took Shelter. A Horse Crashed Down from Top.”
“Homes Gone – They Live Outside” This was common in the settlement after the storm. My grandmother and her family propped up the roof from their kitchen building – it was all that remained of their house — and lived beneath it until their new home was constructed.
“Looking for Bodies”
“Where is Home?”
“Her Home” A local woman, surrounded by what’s left of her house.
“Hotel and Library” Prior to 1932, a hotel stood immediately west of what is now the New Plymouth Inn. The hotel was completely destroyed in the storm, killing Mrs. Alice Lowe, mother-in-law of my great-uncle, Charles Gates.
“She Relates Her Misfortunes to Me” Jack Mertland Malone talks to a local woman about her experiences during the hurricane.
Though all these images are amazing, I think the two below are perhaps the most touching. The first, because it reflects the helplessness I imagine all New Plymouth residents must have felt. These girls know that their father lies beneath the rubble of their home, but there’s little they can do to help him.
“Their Father is Buried Under This Wreckage”
Unlike many of the other images, there’s a hint of hope in the photo below. These children, though no doubt traumatized, survived the storm. Their home appears to be relatively intact. They’re clean and neatly dressed, and perhaps on the way to regaining some degree of normality.
September 3, 1932 – The Calm Before the Storm
September 5, 1932 – Destruction and Devastation
September 7, 1932 – What Misery Lay Ahead
Sept. 5, 1932 – One Family’s Heartbreak