Christiansted

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General view of Christiansted, US Virgin Islands
General view of the town / Jason P. Heym, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
There is a Danish planned town built by black people in Caribbean – Christiansted. This charming colonial town is located in Saint Croix, United States Virgin Islands.

History

Danish colony in Caribbean was established in the 17th century, initially on St. Thomas and St. John. The larger St. Croix island was purchased by Danes from French in 1733.

Initially the island was owned by the Danish West India & Guinea Company.

The location of the future capital of the island – was selected by Frederik Moth, who fired a salute from the former French fortification in 1734. This site in fact was selected by French several decades earlier – in 1665 and named simply – Bassin ("the harbor").

Now the town was named Christiansted – after the Danish king Christian VI.

Moth elaborated a plan for the city – this was a true Baroque town plan with rectangular city blocks and strict building codex, which was approved in 1747. First was built a fort – Fort Christian (1738), then appeared other buildings – the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse (1749), the Steeple Building (1753).

The main shopping street in Christiansted, 1944
The main shopping street in Christiansted, 1944 / Jack Delano, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Most of the work was done by black people, imported by Danes from Africa. Island and Christiansted were a true melting pot of different races and cultures.

Moth became the first governor of the island. He divided the land in plantations and sold it cheaply to settlers. Christiansted was the capital of Danish West Indies in 1754 – 1871.

Development was slow initially – there were applied excessive taxes and strict limits on trade, e.g. exclusively Danish ships were allowed to enter the ports.

Customs house in Christiansted, built in 1844
Customs house in Christiansted, built in 1844 / Elizabeth Sullivan, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1755 the island was purchased by Danish crown and "golden times" of St. Croix started. Danish trade ships brought black slaves from Guinea and then brought sugar and rum from plantations to Europe (later – to United States).

Christiansted flourished, higher society in the city had exuberant, extravagant life style.

These golden times lasted until the Napoleonic times, when sugar production from beet was mastered. This and other factors led to a decline and Christiansted became poorer and poorer.

Gradually the influence of the United States increased and in 1916 – 1917 islands were sold to the USA.

Today Christiansted is a small town with some 3000 inhabitants, it is charming tourist destination.

Planning and architecture

Pedestrian walkway in Christiansted
Pedestrian walkway in Christiansted / Jason Grote, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Christiansted represents a unique blend of Danish – Northern European and black African style in architecture, planning and decoration.

Town is characterised by its Baroque grid pattern planning and mostly Neo-Classical architecture. Its stone buildings are painted in pastel (mostly – yellow) colors and have red tiled roofs.

Town has arcaded sidewalks, cobblestone walkways. Christiansted has two marketplaces. There are numerous historical buildings – Fort Christian (1738), the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse (1749), the Steeple Building (1753), Danish Custom House (1844), the Scale House (1856) and other buildings.

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Christiansted 17.746868, -64.703017 Christiansted
Coordinates: 17.7469 N 64.7030 W
Categories: Cities and towns
Values: Architecture, Visual, History
Rating: (2 / 5)
Address: North America, Caribbean, United States Virgin Islands, northern coast of Saint Croix Island
Founded: 1735 (1773)
Period of flourishing: 1770 – 1800
Area of the historical centre: ˜ 11 ha

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Recommended books

Moon U.S. & British Virgin Islands


Virgin Islands resident Susanna Henighan Potter offers firsthand knowledge of everything this paradise has to offer, from St. Croix to St. Thomas and Tortola. Potter guides readers to the most thrilling hikes in St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park, the best snorkeling spots in Cruz Bay, and the most exciting carnivals and festivals on Virgin Gorda.

A History of the Virgin Islands of the United States


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