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ST. CROIX

The history of Fort Christiansvaern is quite diverse — formerly home to the first Danish governors, a prison, a place of oppression and, finally, a site of liberation. Located on the waterfront overlooking Gallows Bay, this National Historic Site once served as a pivotal landmark of Danish control over St. Croix. Built in 1749, it’s one of the best-preserved colonial forts in the Caribbean, and is now part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Fort Christiansvaern offers visitors seven acres to explore and gain insight into the island’s complicated evolution. History is all around as you wander beyond the fort’s yellow-hued walls and through its green door — from a spot marking the location of the whipping post where enslaved people were brutalized to the gun decks stationed at each corner of the fort to the holding cell of Rachel Lavien, mother of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States. Explore on your own or sign up for a guided tour.

Like Fort Christiansvaern, Fort Frederiksted was originally built to protect the interests of the Danish from potential invaders, which included other colonial powers and pirates. It was also created to maintain order among the enslaved population. Located on the northwestern end of the island overlooking a deep-water bay, the red-hued fort was constructed in the mid-18th century. Since then, it has been at the center of several historical events, including an emancipation revolt, a labor riot and the ceremonies transferring the Virgin Islands to the United States in 1917. Slightly trapezoidal shaped, a tour of Fort Frederiksted provides a glimpse into its various transformations. Former detention cells, officers’ quarters, stables and a gun battery can be viewed. Designated a National Historic Landmark, it is also home to a museum and features rooms decorated in period furniture, all of which can be explored on a leisurely self-guided tour.

ST. JOHN

Perched high above Coral Bay, it’s easy to see why the Danes chose this spot to build a fort in 1717. Now mostly in ruins, Fortsberg still offers visitors a look at its former life, in addition to stunning views of the beautiful bay below. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fortsberg, also known as Frederiksvaern, has an interesting past. In 1773, it was the site of a successful slave rebellion and subsequent massacre. It took more than 400 French soldiers from Martinique to suppress the rebellion after six months of fighting. The fort ruins feature high walls and four bastions. Fortsberg is privately owned and not open to the public.

ST. THOMAS

Situated on Charlotte Amalie’s waterfront across from the Emancipation Garden, Fort Christian’s amazing architecture is reason alone to add it to your must-visit list. Featuring a striking red brick facade complemented by diamond-shaped bastions and a striking Victorian clock tower, this 17th-century Danish fort is the oldest standing structure in USVI. Fun fact: The bricks needed to build the fort were provided by five ships sailing with them as ballast. Now a National Historic Landmark, Fort Christian was once a defense post, town center, governor’s residence and police headquarters. Today, it houses a museum with exhibits focused on the history of the U.S. Virgin Islands from the Stone Age to present day, including a collection of historic Danish furniture.

Located on Hassel Island, just south of Charlotte Amalie, Fort Willoughby has changed hands a number of times since it was built in the late 1700s. Originally it was under the command of the Danish, who named it Prince Frederik’s Battery. Back then, Hassel Island was part of the Danish West Indies. It was the British who renamed it Fort Willoughby when they took it over in the early 1800s, followed by a second occupation a few years later. Today, Fort Willoughby is protected within the Virgin Islands National Park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can get a glimpse of what Fort Willoughby once looked like via the remnants of the fort’s magazine, barracks and cistern that are still visible.

Learn more about USVI’s illustrious history.

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