Written by Missy Johnston
Catamaran Off the Coast of St Croix, Caribbean
When Danes first came to the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix during the 15th and 16th centuries, they ushered in an era of both wealth and human suffering. Today, that history is preserved by the Christiansted National Historic Site. This site can be part of a customized itinerary on a US Virgin Islands luxury private yacht charter. It’s a great way to experience the Danish way of life that led to the area’s economic boom and eventual decline.
The stories of Christiansted are sobering, but they offer important historical insights.
Fort Christiansted Courtyard with Cannons on the Front Wall on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
After Denmark purchased St, Croix from the French in 1733, Christiansted became home to the Danish West India and Guinea Company. The Company used slaves for labor, placed very high taxes on all imports and exports, and enforced rules that demanded all trade be done by Danish ships. These cumbersome policies made it difficult for the town to grow and flourish.
In 1754, the Company was purchased by the Danish government, which took control of the Danish West Indies operations using Christiansted as a home base. The Danish Crown successfully built St. Croix’s sugar industry, using resources of the Company, and increased the island’s population and profits to match. Though wealth poured in, they still used slave labor to accomplish their goals.
Evidence remains of this era’s “Golden Age” that was created primarily by an unpaid labor force. The main attractions in Christiansted are the museums at Fort Christiansvaern, the Steeple Building, the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, and the handful of other buildings surrounding them in town. These structures were all built by African slaves and feature both Danish and African architectural influences.
Cannons on the Roof of Fort Christiansted. St. Croix
Other interesting remnants of Christiansted’s heritage include townhouses, churches, and cottages that display a blend of Danish and African cultures. Evidence of different nationalities and cultures that contributed to Christiansted’s wealthy golden days exist in street signs, shops, and other parts of Christiansted.
Some notable figures with roots in Christiansted include Alexander Hamilton and David Hamilton Jackson. Alexander Hamilton spent much of his early life in Christiansted before becoming one of the United States’ most influential founding fathers, while David Hamilton Jackson grew up in Christiansted and spent his life fighting for civil rights and workers’ rights within the Danish West Indies.