Christiansted, the capital of the Danish West Indies from 1755 to 1871, is one of two main towns on St. Croix. Located between a busy seaport and green hillsides, the town is well known for it’s many historic yellow buildings. The one square mile town of Christiansted offers you a unique opportunity to visit a historically important town as well as to partake in shopping and dining in a modern setting. Christiansted has maintained it’s Danish architectural richness and offers many buildings and structures of interest, like cobblestone walkways, old churches and imposing fort Christiansvaen.
The Christiansted historical area encompasses about 27 acres and is maintained by the United States National Park Service. It is located along the Christiansted waterfront and it includes what used to be a busy Danish business and trading center. It was once the area used to dock ships carrying human cargo, rum and molasses bound for the triangular trade route through the Caribbean to Europe and Africa. Christiansted is a very interesting town and well worth exploring.
Constructed in the late 1700s of yellow brick, FortChristiansvaern is the best preserved of the five Danish forts remaining in the West Indies. The fort is a wonderful example of Danish colonial military architecture. Although built for defense against pirate and privateers as well as to ward off slave uprising, its cannons have never known warfare. The fort is built around a small courtyard and includes corner bastions and small dark dungeons. Originally used by the Danish Army the fort later served as a jail and also for religious services. The Fort is open weekdays 8am to 5 pm, weekends 9am to 5pm. Closed on Federal holidays. Admission is $2. The fort is well worth visiting and offers an interesting look at history in the islands.
The simple but pretty rectangular building directly across from the Fort's main entrance road was once the Lord God of Sabaoth Church. It was built in the early 1750's by the Danish West India and Guinea Company. The church was consecrated in 1753. The baroque tower and cupola were added about forty years later. The Steeple Building was St. Croix’s first Lutheran Church. Later the structure was used as a military bakery, community hall, hospital and also a school. The National Park Service has restored it to its original splendor. The museum contains several displays that portray the history of St. Croix and plantation life.
The beautiful yellow customs house sits in the lawn in front of the fort. The customs house was the third building in a local chain of commerce. After merchants passed through the scale house on the Christiansted waterfront their next stop was the custom house to pay taxes. The construction of the building reflects both European style and the modifications necessary for island living; for example the welcoming arms staircase graces the front of the building and then the addition of hurricane shutters shows the need to protect the building from the elements. This building dates back to 1734 when it was a single story bookkeeper’s residence. Later additions included the second floor.
A beautiful example of Danish colonial architecture, Government House illustrates the grandeur of Danish buildings from the period when 'sugar was king' in the West Indies. Government House is an imposing building located on the lower King Street area and is hard to miss. A large welcoming arm staircase graces the entrance of the building and leads up to an arch bearing the date 1830. This building is one of the largest governor’s residences in the Lesser Antilles. Inside are reproductions of the original furniture. These furnishings were a gift from the Danish government who took the originals with them when they left in 1917. In 1871 the capital of the Danish West Indies was moved to Charlotte Amalie however Government House continued to serve as a government building and today it is the focal point of many government social and cultural events. The building was originally the site of a Danish merchant’s home. This home was purchased and merged with another house to form the present government house.
Through the gates photographed here you enter a room will a large scale, thus the name scale house. The scale house saw countless hogheads of sugar pass through in the colonial days. The sugar was weighed and taxed before being shipped to Denmark, America and various European countries. The building was also used to inspect imported goods. Since the beginning of Danish settlement a scale house was part of waterfront trading scenes. This scale house was built between 1855-1856 and is located right on the Christiansted waterfront.
This special building was a 19th century Danish colonial pharmacy and is the only Danish pharmacy museum in the Western Hemisphere that exist in its original building. The pharmacy was located in this building from 1828 to 1970.The apothecary was restored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society and opened in 1996. The pharmacy was established by Peder Eggert Benzon to prepare medicines for the Danish military in Christiansted. The last owner of the pharmacy was Laurence C. Merrill who purchased it in 1946. Merrill continued to operate the pharmacy until he retired in 1970. He donated the contents of the pharmacy including handsome antique drug jars and pharmaceutical equipment to the St. Croix Landmarks Society. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday 10am to 4pm. Admission is free.
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