An elegant landmark visible from South Road atop the Botanical Gardens ’ rolling lawns, Camden House (183 South Rd., tel. 441/236-5732, open for free public tours noon–2 p.m. Tues.–Fri.) is definitely worth a visit. The 18th-century mansion has an imposing wooden facade comprising a two-story veranda offering sweeping views of the distant seascape. The government-owned Camden House is sometimes described as Bermuda’s counterpart to 10 Downing Street or the White House (and, yes, it is white), but the head of state doesn’t actually live here.
Instead, the building is used for occasional public events and VIP receptions; foreign dignitaries including Princess Margaret, former U.S. secretary of state General Colin Powell, ex-U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson have all dined in the house. One of the favorite public events held here is a yearly carol service, a free, festive occasion staged on the front lawn in early December featuring local choirs and bands and attended by the Premier and Governor.
Camden House is an example of Georgian architecture; while it is not known exactly when it was constructed, the main structure and some additions were completed between 1714 and 1830. The first owner of the house, Francis Jones, died of yellow fever in 1795. The home was passed to the Tucker family, and Hamilton mayor Henry James Tucker lived here until his death in 1870. It was during this time that an arrowroot factory was opened in buildings behind the main house (now the headquarters of the Masterworks Foundation). In 1966, Camden House was sold to the government as part of the Botanical Gardens  and has been a public treasure ever since; the huge facing property on South Road is still owned by Tucker descendents.
Camden’s interior is all the more impressive after receiving a designer makeover in 2003, when much of its plumbing, upholstery, and woodwork—including mountains of cedar—was refurbished. In the dining room, featuring carved paneling that reportedly took a mid-1800s cabinetmaker 30 years to finish, ornate walls set off a stunning hand-carved Bermuda cedar table and chairs (to seat 22); boite-like powder rooms recall a gentler age of tea parties and parasols; and expansive drawing rooms and studies, accented by historic antiques, artwork, books, crystal chandeliers, and gilded mirrors, make this one of the finest restored stately homes open to the public.
One special feature on carved panels is the “bird’s-eye” cedar, prized for its eye-catching grain. The William and Mary cushion-molded mirror over the dining-room fireplace is also worth a close look. Another gem of the building is curator–housekeeper Alfred Ambrose Scott, a gracious character who answers visitors’ questions or simply offers witty greetings. On Sunday afternoons, his lively jazz can he heard spilling down from a stereo on the balcony.