5 Historical Places to Visit in St. Thomas
Ready to dive into St. Thomas history? There is so much beauty to behold on the island and stories that date centuries back. From the time the island formed from volcanoes and wildlife and fauna took over, to Indigenous peoples (Ciboney, Igneri, Taino, and Kalinago peoples) cultivating the land, there is so much of the history of St. Thomas that is still unknown. What remains from the more recent centuries tells the story of Danish colonization, slavery, and rehabilitation after storms and social strife have left their marks. To learn more about the history of St. Thomas during your visit, we’d recommend checking out these historical sites and tours in the Virgin Islands.
Climb the 99 Steps
Take this St. Thomas historical site one step at a time. Made of the old ballast from Danish ships, the steps connect waterside and hilltop homes and facilities. They were built in the 1700’s and referred to as “frigangs,” or stair-stepped streets. While the climb is a bit of a workout, the views are great and you can use your imagination to think of all the pirates, towns folks, and royalty that ascended those stairs on their way to Blackbeard’s Castle. The castle is now closed to the public after a recent hurricane, but the free stair climb will let you see the outside up close.
Discover the History of Fort Christian
As the oldest structure on the island, Fort Christian holds a lot of St. Thomas history from the last few centuries. The thick walls were originally constructed by the Danish colonizers to defend the settlement in the late 1600s. This was all happening while the city of Charlotte-Amalie was being established after years of being a pirate’s haven filled with taverns known as “Taphus,” or tap houses.
This St. Thomas historical site was once home to the local government, a house of worship, a prison, a museum, and a police station. Simply pay $10 for a self-guided tour of the grounds, including a great view of the island from the roof.
Explore the Beauty of Emancipation Garden
Not a far stroll from Fort Christian, Emancipation Garden commemorates the abolition of slavery in the West Indies on July 3, 1848. Statues in the park as well as annual celebrations of the event call to mind the grim history of slave trade on the island and celebrate a future with the pursuit of freedom and equality for all islanders. The waterfront park was constructed in 1998 to reflect on the 150th anniversary of the announcement. You might even catch a community event when passing through!
Learn More on a St. Thomas Historical Trust Tour
The mission of the St. Thomas Historical Trust is to “To identify, protect and preserve the history, sites, and culture of St. Thomas.” The organization provides historical tours of Charlotte-Amalie as well as Hassel Island — a small island off the harbor formed by the Danish government. They have restored trails and implemented historic signs on the island so visitors can learn more.
Behold the 17th Century Bluebeard’s Castle
Named after the infamous Bluebeard pirate, legend has it the pirate built the castle for his lover in the late 1600s, while historians say it was built by the Danes as a watch tower. Whichever you choose to believe, local tour guide and shop owner Sean Loughman has reopened the St. Thomas historical site for private tours. Inside the castle you’ll find pirate artifacts and collections that tell of St. Thomas’s history. You’ll even get to see a panoramic view of the island from the roof. Reach out to Sean at 340-998-3819 to schedule a tour.
Once you’ve taken the time to appreciate St. Thomas history, don’t forget to dive into the stunning Caribbean waters on a local tour. Explore the island and have some fun with these fun excursions!