The fort was built to protect Danish colonial interests in the Caribbean and the western end of St. Croix against incursions by other colonial powers, prevent smuggling, protect shipping in the Frederiksted harbor from pirates and privateers, and maintain order among the colony’s enslaved people. The Fort is located overlooking a deep water bay. Before the Dutch purchased St. Croix from the French, earlier colonists had established a small fortification at this location, The gun battery was used to deter privateers and pirates from using this place as a landing site from which they could travel inland and attack the settlements.
The fort is slightly trapezoidal in plan, with diamond-shaped bastions at the southwest and northwest corners, and a triangularly-shaped projecting salient on the east side that housed the powder magazine. Within the curtain, or long walls, of the fort are a number of rooms which functioned as Officer's and Men's Kitchens and Rooms, and Detention Cells, all opening on to an inner brick-paved courtyard. The Commandant's Quarters, the only second story part of the fort, was built above the main entrance on the west, or seaward side, of the fort. On the west side, is a three pointed masonry sea battery, and on the north side are the masonry stables, enclosed by a masonry wall.
In 1733, the Danish West India and Guinea Company purchased the practically abandoned French island of St. Croix, and took possession in the following year. Between 1735 and 1755, Danish surveyors, moving from east to west, divided the island into approximately 300 plantations, each of approximately 150 Danish acres in size. On October 19, 1751 the Directors of the Danish West India and Guinea Company approved the establishment of a town at the western end of St. Croix. In that same year the area of the future fort and town was cleared and surveyed. The town was named Frederiksted in honor of the Danish King Frederik V.
Fort Frederik, also named after King Frederik V, was begun in May 1752 and finished in 1760.
It has been the focal point of several significant historical events including the earliest reported salute by a foreign government to a United States ship (October 25, 1776), the Emancipation Revolt of 1848, the 1878 Labor Riot and Fireburn, and one of the 1917 ceremonies transferring the Virgin Islands to the United States.
During the twentieth century, Fort Frederik served as a police station, jail, court, fire department, public library, and telephone exchange. The structure was vacated in 1973 and restoration as a historic site was completed by the Virgin Islands government in 1976. At that time the fort was restored to its 1780 configuration, and it currently serves as an interpreted facility and local, history museum.
Fort Frederiksted was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 8, 1996. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on September 25, 1997. Fort Frederiksted is also a contributing property to the Frederiksted Historic District.
Read the full nomination.
Review the Historic American Buildings Survey of the Fort.
Learn more about the National Regiseter of Historic Places.
Learn more about the National Historic Landmarks program.
Learn more about the Historic American Buildings Survey.
- virgin islands
- military history
- colonial history
- economic history
- national register of historic places
- national historic landmark
- historic american buildings survey
- listed 10/08/1996
- designated 09/25/1997
- reference number 96001073
- reference number 97001269