st thomas, usvi  museums & historic sites

Museums & Historic Sites

natives, pirates, & settlers.

St Thomas has been a native Caribbean paradise, a haven for pirates, and a colonial holding of the Dutch, the Danish, and the Americans. The long and interesting history of the island is reflected and preserved in its many museums and historic sites.

"History is a cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man."
―Percy Bysshe Shelley

"If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday."
―Pearl Buck

St Thomas, USVI History

the natives...

St Thomas was originally settled around 1500 BC by the Ciboney people. They were later replaced by the Arawaks and then the Caribs. Christopher Columbus sighted the island in 1493 on his second voyage to the "New World". The native Caribs barely survived the first decades of contact with Europeans, either due to disease, deportation into slavery, or by being killed.

the dutch...

The Dutch West India Company established a post on Saint Thomas in 1657. The first congregation was the St. Thomas Reformed Church, which was established in 1660 and was associated with the Dutch Reformed Church.

the danes + slavery...

The Danish conquered the island in 1666, and by 1672 had established control over the entire island through the Danish West India and Guinea Company. The land was divided into plantations and sugar cane production became the primary economic activity. As a result, the economies of Saint Thomas and the neighboring islands of Saint John and Saint Croix became highly dependent on slave labor and the slave trade, and for some time the largest slave auctions in the world were held there.

While the sugar trade had brought prosperity to the island's free citizens, by the early 19th century Saint Thomas was in decline. The continued export of sugar was threatened by hurricanes, drought, and American competition. Following the Danish Revolution of 1848, slavery was abolished and the resulting rise in labor costs further weakened the position of Saint Thomas' sugar producers.

the americans...

In 1917, St. Thomas was purchased (along with Saint John and Saint Croix) by the United States for $25 million in gold, as part of a defensive strategy to maintain control over the Caribbean and the Panama Canal during the First World War.

U.S. citizenship was granted to the residents in 1927. The U.S. Department of the Interior took over administrative duties in 1931. American forces were based on the island during the Second World War. In 1954, passage of the U.S. Virgin Islands Organic Act officially granted territorial status to the three islands, and allowed for the formation of a local senate with politics dominated by the American Republican and Democratic parties. Full home rule was achieved in 1970.

99 Steps

These steps were built by the Danes in the mid-1700s who found "step-streets" to be the easiest way to climb up and down the steep hills of Charlotte Amalie. The bricks used were originally brought from Denmark as ballast in the holds of trading ships.

99 steps, st thomas, usvi

Blackbeard's Castle

This watchtower was built by the Danes in 1679. According to legend, the infamous pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, used the tower to watch for ships entering the harbor.

blackbeards castle, st thomas, usvi

Bluebeard's Castle

A Danish fortress built in 1689, Bluebeard's Castle is named after the fictitious pirate, Bluebeard, who was said to have built the castle to lock away his beautiful wife.

bluebeards castle, st thomas, usvi

Camille Pissarro Gallery

The father of French Impressionism, Camille Pissarro was born and raised in Charlotte Amalie. His childhood home is now an art gallery featuring artwork from dozens of artists including Camille Pissarro himself.

pissarro, st thomas, usvi

Drake's Seat

One of the island's best lookouts, Drake's Seat offers a panoramic view of Magens Bay and the US and British Virgin Islands. Explorer Sir Francis Drake is said to have kept watch on his fleet from this vantage point.

drakes seat, st thomas, usvi

Fort Christian & Museum

Constructed in 1680, Fort Christian was built to defend the Danish settlement. This National Historic Landmark is the oldest building in continuous use on St. Thomas and also served as the governor's residence, a place of worship, a police station and now a museum.

for christian and museum, st thomas, usvi

Frederick Lutheran Church

Constructed in 1680, Fort Christian was built to defend the Danish settlement. This National Historic Landmark is the oldest building in continuous use on St. Thomas and also served as the governor's residence, a place of worship, a police station and now a museum.

frederick lutheran church, st thomas, usvi

French Heritage Museum

Home to the oldest Lutheran congregation in the Virgin Islands, this revivalist style structure was completed in 1844.

french heritage museum, st thomas, usvi

Government House

This small museum, located in Frenchtown, chronicles the influence of the French in the Caribbean. Residents have donated some 275 artifacts to help demonstrate this lasting French presence. The museum also records the genealogies of local families.

government house, st thomas, usvi

Haagensen House

Constructed in 1867 as the meeting place for the Danish Colonial Council, Government House is used today as the Governor's Office. Visitors are welcome.

haagensen, st thomas, usvi

Hassel Island

Part of the Virgin Islands National Park, this treasured island is home to numerous historical structures including Danish & British Military Forts from the Napoleonic era.

hassel island, st thomas, usvi

Market Square

Located at the end of Main Street, the square is the original site of a busy slave market. Today it serves as a market center for local vendors of fruit, vegetables, spices and fish.

market square, st thomas, usvi

Seven Arches Museum

Once a Danish residence, it was built in the 19th century featuring seven arches to support the staircase. Today it continues to be a residence as well as a museum filled with West Indian mahogany furniture and other antiques.

seven arches museum, st thomas, usvi

St Thomas Synagogue

Built in 1796 by Sephardic Jews, the St. Thomas Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. People of all faiths are welcome to visit the sand-floored interior of this National Historic Landmark.

st thomas synagogue, st thomas, usvi

Sts Peter & Paul Cathedral

Built in 1848, this stunning cathedral serves as the seat of the Territory's Roman Catholic Diocese. Mural paintings on the ceiling depict more than 12 major scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Complimentary tours available by appointment.

peter paul cathedral, st thomas, usvi