Learn About the Park

Photograph of the two-story south curtain of Fort Christiansvaern, 1740.
Commandant's Quarters in the Southern Curtain, Fort Christiansvaern.

NPS photo.

Christiansted National Historic Site was established in 1952 as the first unit of the National Park Service in the Virgin Islands of the United States. Covering over seven acres the park tells the stories about Danish economy and ways of life, and the interaction and interdependence of people in Europe, Africa, West Indies, and North America during the Danish era of occupation of the Virgin Islands (1734-1917). Its five historic buildings, constructed between 1740 and 1856, were built using materials as varied as yellow bricks made in Denmark and brought to the Caribbean as ship ballast, local stone rubble, and large blocks of coral cut from the reefs surrounding Christiansted’s harbor.

Fort Christiansvaern was completed in 1749. It served as the anchor to an island-wide military defense network, protecting the harbor of the new capital of the Danish West Indies. It also served as the town jail, and played host to a young woman named Rachel Faucett Lavien, who, upon her release in 1750, would leave St. Croix, meet a young man named James Hamilton, and become mother to one Alexander Hamilton, who would return to the island with his family in 1765.

What drove the establishment of the colony and what required the building of the fort was trade and commerce, the potential wealth to be derived from sugar agriculture. The historic wharf and its associated buildings – the Scale House (1856), Customs House (1841), and the Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse (1749) – was the center of action for the Danish economy of the West Indies. Through these gates and on these scales came and went the life blood of the colony. Building materials, household goods, agricultural supplies, and enslaved peoples were brought, and sugar, molasses, rum, cotton, and tropical hardwoods were taken away.

Underlying this colonization effort is the uncomfortable reality that all of the labor for the clearing of forests, construction of buildings, growing, cutting, and processing sugar cane, domestic activities, and even specialized labor like blacksmithing and cooking was by the hands of enslaved Africans. Recently, archeological investigations, undertaken as part of the Slave Wrecks Project uncovered the remains of the residences of the enslaved who lived and worked there throughout the 1700s and early 1800s.

Last updated: August 10, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

2100 Church St. #100
Christiansted, VI 00820

Phone:

(340) 773.1460

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