Christiansted National Historic Site
|Christiansted National Historic Site|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
|Location||Christiansted, Virgin Islands, USA|
|Area||27.15 acres (10.99 ha)|
|Established||March 4, 1952|
|Visitors||106,015 (in 2005)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Christiansted National Historic Site|
Christiansted National Historic Site commemorates urban colonial development of the Virgin Islands. It features 18th and 19th century structures in the heart of Christiansted, the capital of the former Danish West Indies on St. Croix Island.
The site consists of six historic structures: Fort Christiansværn (constructed from 1738 to 1749), the Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse (1749), the Church of Our Lord Sabaoth Steeple Building (1753), Customs House (built 1840-1842), the Scale House (1856), and Government House (1747). The Danish West India and Guinea Company held slave auctions within the walled compound of their warehouse until 1803, when the slave trade was outlawed.
The fort was constructed in 1738 on the remains of an earlier French fortification destroyed by a hurricane. The fort protected commerce from piracy and privateers, plus the local citizens from slave revolts. The first Danish governors were also housed here. The British occupied the colony from 1801-1803 and 1807-1815. The fort housed the police headquarters, court offices, courthouse and archives starting in 1878. The soldiers were replaced by 60 gendarmes in 1906 and remained until Transfer Day in 1917.
The fort also served as the colony jail. A notable inmate was the mother of Alexander Hamilton, Rachel. Wed to Johann Michael Lavien in 1750, she soon abandoned the marriage. Under Danish law, he had her jailed after she was "twice found guilty of adultery and no longer resided with him." She spent several months in a ten by thirteen foot cell with one small window, then fled to St. Kitts soon after being released.
The site was first established on March 4, 1952, as Virgin Islands National Historic Site through the initiative of concerned local citizens, to preserve the historic structures and grounds within its boundaries, and to interpret the Danish economy and way of life, including colonial administration, military and naval establishment, international trade (including slave trade), religious diversity, architecture, trades and crime and punishment, between 1733 and 1917. The site was renamed on January 16, 1961. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the historic site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.
The National Park Service, as part of their Centennial Initiative celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, is planning to rehabilitate the main warehouse facility into a slave trade museum and to restore the complex to how it appeared in 1833.
- The National Parks: Index 2001–2003. Washington: U.S. Department of the Interior.
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