hough it’s only 32 square miles in size, St. Thomas has a million miles worth of things to do. Go shopping and sailing, snorkeling and sightseeing, or diving and dining. Enjoy the island’s world-renowned golf course, picture-perfect beaches and spectacular nightlife. Take the Skyride 700 feet above the city or climb the famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie for an incomparable view of the Caribbean. And if you’re interested in culture and history, don’t miss seeing the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, the 1680-built Fort Christian or the childhood home of Camille Pissarro, one of the best-known French Impressionists.
In the capital of the Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, stands a large fort and if its walls could talk what a history it would tell. Fort Christian is the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands; it has stood as a sentry overlooking the Charlotte Amalie Harbor for over 300 years. Fort Christian might tell tales of the Danish militia that were stationed at the fort, of settlers being required to attend religious gatherings at the fort and of governors that resided within the fort’s walls! The stories might include the comings and goings of pirates that sailed into the harbor, of the rivalry at the many small taverns that once dotted the area near the fort and of prosperous trading days. Fort Christian stands as a symbol of Virgin Islands’ rich history.
The imposing fort with walls 3 to 6 feet thick was built to defend the Danish settlement and the harbor from hostile marauders. Construction took place between 1672 and 1680. The fort was named after King Christian V. It served as the administrative center of the island, the residence of the first Governors and the official place of worship. Within the walls of the original fortification were 21 buildings and structures. Between 1724 and 1735 the fort was expanded and continued to function as an important government building. Improvements in artillery would later render the fort obsolete.
By 1874 the role of the fort had shifted, it became the official prison for St. Thomas. Around this time when storage areas and offices were converted to cells; a new entrance with a clock tower was added. The fort served as the police station and prison from 1874 until 1983. Fort Christian Museum was established in 1971 in the downstairs dungeon area, while upstairs continued to function as a police station and prison. The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The museum houses exhibits of historical photos and documents, period furniture, a cane press, displays on local flora and fauna and more. The roof of the fort offers panoramic views of the harbor.
Fort Christian closed in 2005 for renovation. The project unfortunately stalled and the fort remains closed. You can view the Fort from outside the walls. You will notice part of the fort is red and parts white washed. The red iron oxide paint was used in 1874 when the fort was used as a municipal building. The original color was a grey-white wash mortar color which is visible on some parts of the fort where the red paint was stripped away during the recent renovation project.
St. Thomas is largely mountainous. Many roads around the island offer terrific panoramic views of the island and ocean. Amongst the hills on St. Thomas and along the beaches you will find an assortment of accommodations; resorts, historic inns, guest houses, vacation homes, villas and condos.
St. Thomas is a water lover’s paradise. For your vacation plan a few beach days, snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, a day charter, kite boarding, sailing, fishing, kayaking and parasailing. On land you can play a round of golf, take an island tour, check out some attractions, take in the historical sites downtown and do some shopping. In the evening you can hit happy hour at a bar or restaurant, catch some live music and have dinner with a sublime view!
The Cyril E. King Airport serves travelers coming to St. Thomas. Visitors staying on St. John and Water Island can easily daytrip to St. Thomas; daily ferry service is available. St. Thomas is connected to St. Croix by regular interisland air service and a ferry.