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Christiansted National Historic Site

Christiansted National Historic Site

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Christiansted National Historic Site, which includes the elegant buildings and eighteenth-century
fort along the waterfront on St. Croix Island, provides a link to the days when
sugar was king and the Danes ruled the area we now call the Virgin Islands.

Christiansted National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Christiansted National Historic Site recalls the Danish rule of St. Croix Island.

Nearly
250 years after Columbus came upon an island in the New World and named it
Santa Cruz, the Danish West India & Guinea Company bought St. Croix from
the French and began planting sugar. Dozens of sugar factories sprang up, and
the settlement of Christiansted was established in honor of King Christian VI.
The population soon reached 10,000, of which nearly 9,000 were slaves imported
from West Africa.

The Christiansted National Historic Site preserves seven
historic buildings, including the Danish West India & Guinea Company
Warehouse, built in 1749. That same year, a fort was completed to protect the
new town from pirates, privateers, and slave uprisings. The island’s first
governor, Frederick Moth, envisioned a town with boulevards, promenades, and
handsome buildings, like the beautiful city Christiania (now Oslo, Norway). The
graceful architecture, spacious interiors, and arcaded sidewalks in
Christiansted reflect Moth’s vision and the growing wealth of the citizenry.

Between
1760 and 1820 the economy boomed. St. Croix became the capital of the
“Danish Islands in America” and home to royal governors. The
Government House, completed in the 1830s for governors to conduct business and
hold receptions, has been restored to its 1840s appearance. At the 1830 Customs
House, the government collected duties on imports and exports after they were
inspected and weighed in the Scale House.

Two churches, the Lutheran Church
built in 1744 and the Steeple Building from 1753, still grace the waterfront.
The Steeple Building now houses a museum, which contains one of the largest
archaeological collections in the Caribbean. By 1848, the island’s golden years
were coming to an end. Natural disasters, competition from beet sugar, and the
abolishment of slavery all contributed to the economic collapse of St. Croix.

Clash of Cultures

The first skirmish between Europeans and native people of the New
World took place in the water just off St. Croix. Columbus reached the island
on his second voyage in 1493 and named it Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). He saw that
the island was inhabited, so he sent some crew members to shore to “have
speech with the natives.” A canoe of Caribs met the boat, but attempts at
communication failed, and a fight soon broke out. The Spaniards, two of whom
were wounded, killed one Carib and took the rest captive

The first skirmish between Europeans and native people of the New
World took place in the water just off St. Croix. Columbus reached the island
on his second voyage in 1493 and named it Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). He saw that
the island was inhabited, so he sent some crew members to shore to “have
speech with the natives.” A canoe of Caribs met the boat, but attempts at
communication failed, and a fight soon broke out. The Spaniards, two of whom
were wounded, killed one Carib and took the rest captive

Christiansted
National Historic Site Information

Address: 2100 Church St., #100, Danish Custom House, Christiansted, VI
Telephone: 340/773-1460
Hours
of Operation
: Open daily 8 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. except Thanksgiving and Christmas
Admission: $3; children under 16 free

Learn more about these other national historic sites:

Saint-
Gaudens National Historic Site

To learn more about national
monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

National Monuments:
Learn more about America’s
national monuments.

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.

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Christiansted National Historic Site

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