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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie (population 11,000), capitol of the Territory of the United States Virgin Islands, is located on St. Thomas Island. Settlement by the Danish government began in the 1670s, and, by 1724, Charlotte Amalie’s harbor was a bustling Caribbean trade center with virtually free port status. Arms and gunpowder were transshipped here for delivery to the America colonies during the American Revolution.

Between 1820 and 1875, with the advent of steam ships, Charlotte Amalie was the hub of a vast trans-Atlantic trade network, although commercial activity declined during subsequent decades. In 1917, the United States purchased St. Thomas from the Danish government, principally to gain control of the strategically important harbor at Charlotte Amalie. Following World War II, Charlotte Amalie’s economy revived as the community became a focal point for cruise ship tourism.

Most of the historic properties in the Charlotte Amalie National Register Historic District date from after a series of devastating fires during the early 19th century. Notable earlier examples include Skytsborg (1678), a conical watchtower overlooking the harbor, and Fort Christian (original construction 1676), a National Historic Landmark. Both are featured in the National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, “Historic Places in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

In 2004, the French Heritage Museum opened in the Frenchtown neighborhood, which is still populated by the descendants of French settlers who came to the area in the mid to late 19th century. The museum has already become a major tourist attraction and has sparked new economic vitality in a once-depressed area.

For more information

United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism: www.usvitourism.vi

St. Thomas Historical Trust:  www.stthomashistoricaltrust.org

Posted June 8, 2009

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