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Downtown Charlotte Amalie is dense with historic sites spanning more than 350 years. It is easy to explore on a single-day walking tour, but as the island’s primary shopping district, you may want to spend an extra day or two, combining sightseeing with the best in duty free shopping.
Charlotte Amalie’s Historic District begins in the 17th century, when it was known as Tap Haus, or Beer Hall, a favorite hangout for pirates. As more and more settlers immigrated to the island, its rowdy reputation diminished and a proper town was established. The downtown area reflects each part of its past, with a 17th century fort, 18th century Danish warehouses, 19th century churches and present day buildings coexisting side by side. It evolved from a trading post to the busiest duty free port in the Caribbean.
Your Places To Explore downtown map (between pages 80-81) includes a self-guided walking tour highlighting the most important sites of the historic district, as well as helpful shopping suggestions. Stop by the information booth on the Waterfront with any questions.
FORT CHRISTIAN Start your walking tour at St. Thomas’ iconic landmark, Fort Christian, named after King Christian V of Denmark. With its famous clock tower, Fort Christian has been in continuous use since 1680, as a seat of government, a jail, a church and a museum. This National Historic Landmark is currently undergoing massive renovations. Cross the street to the water side.
LEGISLATURE BUILDING Erected in 1828 and originally used as barracks for the Danish Police. Located on the edge of the harbor, it was the site of the transfer of ownership of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States in 1917 and is now the home of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Cross the street at the stoplight near the entrance to the Legislature’s courtyard.
VENDOR’S PLAZA Explore this maze of colorful market stalls for fun souvenirs, t-shirts, bags, fashion jewelry and more. Cross the parking lot behind Vendor’s Plaza.
EMANCIPATION PARK In the middle of the busy downtown area is tranquil Emancipation Park. Notice the conch blower statue commemorating the emancipation of slaves in 1848 as well as the territory’s replica of the Liberty Bell.
GRAND GALLERIA Known as the Grand Hotel from 1837 to 1975, the elegant Grand Galleria offers a collection of shops and offices. Cross the street and head to the right.
FREDERICK LUTHERAN CHURCH The oldest church building on St. Thomas (and the second oldest Lutheran church building in the Western Hemisphere), Frederick Lutheran was the official church of the Danish West Indies. The original sanctuary was built in 1793, and refurbished in 1826 and 1870. It is well known for its lovely golden yellow color and traditional West Indian “welcome arms” staircase, bell tower and grand antique chandeliers. From the church, head right on Main Street to Post Office Square. To the left is the Post Office. To the right is a small park.
POST OFFICE The U.S. Post Office features two floor-to-ceiling murals depicting island life, painted in 1936 by renowned Saturday Evening Post artist Stevan Dohanos. To the left of the park, a short but steep road leads up Government Hill or, take the historic staircase built in 1871 along Garden Street, across from the Post Office.
HOTEL 1829 Built in 1829, Hotel 1829 as the private home of Alexander Lavalette, a wealthy French sea merchant. You’ll see his initials incorporated in the balcony’s ironwork. Note the Moroccan glazed tiles and original Tiffany window. A spectacular 20-foot high Caribbean and Baltic amber waterfall graces the courtyard. Continue up the hill to the edge of the building.
99 STEPS The most photographed steps in the Caribbean, the 99 Steps were built with ballast from Danish trade ships. If you count, you’ll notice there are actually 103! This picturesque stairway is lined with colorful flowers and offers a stunning island view. Historic home museums are found along the way, leading up to Blackbeard’s Castle at the apex. The Crown House was the 18th century home of the prestigious Roth family. Haagensen House and Villa Notman are restored 19th century townhouses showcasing authentic West Indian furnishings.
BLACKBEARD’S CASTLE Rumored to be the stronghold of the infamous pirate Edward Teach. This Danish watchtower named Skytsborg was built by the Danes in 1679, and is considered a National Historic Landmark. Daily tours and explore the tower ruins, pirate statues and botanical gardens. Return to Government Hill at the base of the 99 Steps, turn left.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE The distinguished white Government House is the center of the governor’s operations. It was originally built in 1867 for the Danish Colonial Council. The first two floors are open to the public and are remarkable for their historic artwork by Camille Pissarro and authentic West Indian furniture. An adjacent alley leads to the 7 Arches Museum, a restored 19th century Danish West Indian home with tours by the live-in owner. Return to Post Office Square. Head right for one block, then turn right on Nye Gade for two short blocks.
ST. THOMAS REFORMED CHURCH The St. Thomas (Dutch) Reformed Church is home to the oldest congregation on St. Thomas, continuously worshipping for more than 350 years. The church is on the corner of Nye Gade and Crystal Gade. Head one block up the hill on Crystal Gade.
MAIN STREET The historic buildings of Main Street maintain the town’s role as a busy trading port with an astounding collection of duty free merchandise. Old Danish warehouses made with ship ballast, stone, sand and molasses dominate the southern side of the street and run through to the Waterfront. A collection of 18th and 19th century classic West Indian buildings line the street to the north, including the Camille Pissarro Building, childhood home of the famous French impressionist, and the Enid Baa Public Library, a townhouse built in 1818.
MARKET SQUARE At the far end of the shopping district, Market Square was built as a slave trading market. It is now used to sell local produce and spices, particularly on Saturday mornings. Continue down Main Street one block to complete your walking tour.
SAINTS PETER & PAUL CATHEDRAL This Catholic Church was constructed in 1806 and is noted for its ornate and inspiring artwork by Belgian artists, Father Leo Servais and Brother Ildephonsus. Return via the Waterfront.
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