Hassel Island, U.S. Virgin Islands
|Nearest city||Charlotte Amalie|
|Architect||Lt. Col. Charles Shipley|
|NRHP Reference #||76001862|
|Added to NRHP||July 19, 1976|
Hassel Island (also sometimes Hassell Island) is a small island of the U.S. Virgin Islands, a United States territory located in the Caribbean Sea. Hassel Island lies in the Charlotte Amalie harbor just south of Saint Thomas and east of Water Island.
The roughly 136 acre (550,000 m²) island was once a peninsula of Saint Thomas, known as Orkanhullet (Hurricane Hole). Hassel Island was separated by the Danish government in 1860, and named for the Hassel family who owned much of the estate.
Careening Cove, a bay on Hassel Island, appears on maps as early as 1687.
The Danish used Hassel Island's strategic location to defend the busy Charlotte Amalie harbor in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The British occupied Hassel Island during the Napoleonic Wars. The ruins of several British buildings remain on Hassel Island, including Fort Willoughby, which was built on the site of the older Prince Frederik's Battery (Fort Frederik), Fort Shipley (Shipley's Battery), and Cowell's Battery. All three were constructed around 1802.
In the 1840s, the St. Thomas Marine Railway Company constructed the St. Thomas Marine Railway Slip. Later renamed the Creque Marine Railway, it is one of the earliest steam-powered marine railways in the western hemisphere and perhaps the oldest surviving example of such a railway. The Hamburg-based Boulton Company built the railway's steam engine.
In the 1860s, the Danish government dug a channel which separated Hassel Island from Saint Thomas and improved the circulation of the Charlotte Amalie harbor.
The channel was widened by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1919, shortly after the United States purchased the Danish West Indies. The United States Navy also established a naval station on the island, which was in operation during World War I and World War II.
In the middle of the 20th century, most of Hassel Island was owned by the prominent local Paiewonsky family. The Royal Mail Inn, a small hotel located on Hassel Island, may have been the hotel immortalized in Herman Wouk's novel Don't Stop the Carnival.
The Creque Marine Railway and a signal station at Cowell's Battery were in operation until the 1960s and 1970s respectively.
In 1978, the Virgin Islands National Park purchased most of the island from the Paiewonsky family. The rest of the island is divided between the territorial government and a few private residences.
Since around 2004, the Saint Thomas and Hassel Island Preservation Trust, the Virgin Islands National Park, the Saint Thomas Historical Trust and other organizations have been working to restore and preserve the island's historic sites. There are limited guided kayaking and hiking tours of the island.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Hassel Island, USVI". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "Hassel Island Historical Archive - Ft. Willoughy / Garrison House". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "Hassel Island Historical Archive - Ft. Shipley Artifacts". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "Hassel Island Historical Archive - Cowell's Battery / Signal Station". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "SJHS Hassel Island Chronology". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "Hassel Island Historical Archive - Royal Mail Stream Packet Co.". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "Virgin Islands Archeology with the NPS and Friends: Archaeology on an Epidemic Hospital". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- "U.S. Virgin Islands Forts". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- Morris, Molly (April 9, 2008). "Hassel Island's Makeover Uncovers Historical Riches". St. Thomas Source.
- "Real World St. Thomas Trailer". MTV. May 29, 2012.