Belmopan, fifty miles inland and with plenty of room to expand, was selected as the site of the new capital of British Honduras after Hurricane Hattie had devastated the former capital, the port of Belize City, in 1961. Construction started in 1967 and the government moved there in 1970: Belize City remained the commercial capital. The country changed its name to Belize in 1974, and gained its independence in 1981. It was only then that governments began to think seriously about establishing their diplomatic missions at Belmopan, although the Ministry of Public Building and Works had bought a staff house, 10 Orchid Gardens, in 1972 to use as a communications office.
Immediately after independence, the high commission occupied Belize House in Belmopan, formerly the governor’s residence. A site of about 1.5 hectares was bought in 1982 on which to build a high commission residence, a staff house and amenities. These were completed in 1984. The residence was called Merlin House, after the 16-gun Royal Navy sloop that had in 1798 been instrumental in fighting off a Spanish invasion at St. George Caye: Roman Halter designed and made a handsome nameplate for the residence.
The Belize government granted free of charge for the construction of new high commission offices the site at Block 20 in Parcel 772 at Embassy Square, the diplomatic area. The offices were completed contemporaneously with the housing in 1984. All the buildings were two-storey and designed in-house by architect George Coutinho of the Property Services Agency. Consistent with the new town of Belmopan, all the buildings were deliberately kept low key and simple to build.
A residence, Sotela House, Montes de Oca, was bought in 1964 for £38,000 and replaced by La Cachita, San Rafael de Escazu in 1980 for £230,000. Offices have always been leased. [Update]
The residence at 31 Avenida Sur was leased from at least 1959 to 1976, when a five-year lease was taken instead on 121 Francisco Campos, Colonia Escalon. This house was bought later in 1976 for £113,000. The Post closed in 1980 because of the deteriorating security situation and re-opened in 1984 as a one-man mini-Mission subordinate to Tegucigalpa. It closed again in [?], and the house was sold. Offices were leased from at least 1967 at 611 Thirteenth Avenue Norte, Colonia Duenas. [Update]
A legation house, leased since 1937, was bought in 1947 at Nos 4-13, Zona 9, in the prolongation of Seventh Avenue South between 4th and 5th Streets of Tivoli at a cost of £37,500. The house was built by the Herrera family with the intention of leasing it as a legation, and it worked well, although the minister induced the landlord to build a new dining room and terrace at the rear. During the Second World War the minister made it a centre for preparing food for sale to war charities, and additional temporary kitchen quarters were built. It was sold in [? the 1990s] and replaced by a house on Calle 26-59, Zona 10. Offices were leased until [? the 1990s], and then purchased.
Lord Davidson, who visited in 1943, reported that there was ‘only one good house in the whole of the town and that happens to be rented by the local Chargé, which is lucky’: he did not record where it was. A succession of residences and offices have since been leased, [Update]
The site for a residence, on which the vendor had a suitable house under construction, was bought in 1968 at Lots 142 and 143 Reparto Las Colinas for about £25,000. From 1958, the offices were leased on the 3rd floor of the Bank of London and Montreal Building, 208 Avenida Roosevelt. [Update]