Charlotte Amalie Walking Tour

 Walking Tour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island

Begin: King’s Wharf                 End: Waterfront                       Time: 4+ Hours                       Best: Before 10 am                 Worst: Noon

 On this self-guided walking tour you will watch the rich history of St. Thomas come to life.  Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas, once attracted Confederate sailors, pirates, slave traders, and many others.  You can experience this vibrant past in as little as 2 1/2 hours or as long as you would like.  Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera.  You will want to photograph these wonderful historic places.  Start your tour at the eastern harbor front at King’s Wharf.  To get your bearings, West is toward the airport and East is towards Red Hook, South is the waterfront and North is inland.

 1.  Kings Wharf: Park your vehicle at the waterfront, beside the fort for a small fee.  Better yet, avoid the traffic and take a Safari for about $2 per person.  Begin at the King’s Wharf, once a Danish military barracks dating as early as 1874, now houses the Virgin Islands Legislature.  This is easy to spot as the building is yellow with white trim and still has the unmistakable black iron-work gates all the way around.  Is is nestled right along the sea shore.  Feel free to walk around the grounds and take vibrant pictures from the shore as you stroll through the historical garden.  Don’t forget to check out the cannons pointed and ready to defend the harbor from those tricky pirates!  Using the cross walk, carefully cross the street to:

2Fort Christian: This unique structure dates back to 1672 and was named after Danish King Christian V.  It was used as a governor’s residence, police station, court, and jail until it became a national historic landmark in 1977.  After touring around the outside, step inside to view a museum that illuminates the island’s history and culture.  Walk across the street and head west to:

3.  Emancipation Gardens:  (with the white gazebo)  This is where a proclamation freeing African slaves and indentured European servants was read on July 3, 1848.  Today the park is a picnic area for local workers and visitors.  Don’t forget to see the replica of the Liberty Bell.  It was molded from the same cast as our Bell in the States, (minus the crack).

4.  Central Post Office:  Walk to the Northwest of the park at Main Street and Tolbod Gade stands the Central Post Office.  It is a yellow building with green trim.  Walk inside and glance around at the murals by Stephen Dohanos, who later became a famous artist for the Saturday Evening Post.  Fraom here walk east along the alley Norre Gade to the:

5.  Frederik Lutheran Church:  (white building w/ red doors) 7 Norre Gade is the address and you can see the steeple from the post office.  Walk up the steps and take a look at the bustling activity all around.  This church was built between 1780 and 1793.  The original Georgian-style building, financed by a free black parishioner, Jean Reeneaus, was reconstructed in 1825 and again in 1870, after it was damaged in a hurricane.  If you are feeling adventurous, take the secret passage steps along the right side of the main building to the upper level parking lot. Then turn left up the next set of steps to the:

6.  First Lady’s Garden: Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and find a shady bench to take a rest.  Walk around the water fountain and take the steps north to the street level.  Directly in front of you sits a white house with a stunning red carpet lining the entrance.  This is the:

7.  Government House: This is the administrative headquarters for the U.S Virgin Islands.  It has been the center of political life in the islands since it was built, around the time of the American Civil War.  Tours through the main house are by appointment only and is full of historic treasures. If you are sweet to the guard inside, she may let you tour through the lobby.  Take note to sign the guest book and look at the murals depicting Transfer Day, Landing of Columbus, and the Sugar Plantation.  Also, take note of the HDMS Triton given on Transfer Day, (March 31, 1992) and the two paintings by the “Father of Impressionism,” and St. Thomas native Camille Pissarro.  As you exit, thank the nice guard, and take your picture standing in the Danish red wooden sentry box.  Head west and see the dedication plaque for the Lutheran Parsonage in 1725, past the Lt. Gov. office building.  Look for the sign for:

8.  The Seven Arches Museum: A favorite of locals and tourists, the private home of Philibert Fluck and Barbara Demaras is also a museum.  This Danish structure is over two centuries old and completely restored to it’s former glory.  Stroll through yellow ballast arches into the Great Room which boasts a wonderful look at the Caribbean’s busiest harbor.  The admission is $7 and by appointment only.  Included is a cold tropical drink. (340-774-9295)  Continue up the steps, for “breathe-taking views” (pun intended) to:

9.  The Britania House & Blackbeard’s Castle:  If you are brave enough, Walk up along the right side and purchase a ticket to tour through the historic The Britania House, Haagensen House, 1860 Villa Notman, the Rum Factory, Captain La Valette’s House of Treasure and the notorious Blackbeard’s Castle! (340-776-1234)  The tour through Blackbeard’s Tower is worth it for the view.  Restored and accessible all the way up to the top makes for a fantastic photo opportunity.    Take special notice of the three women statues in the fountain.  Retrace your steps down the hill until you reach a sign that says, “1680” or “At Home in the Tropics”.  Take the stairs down:

10.  Frederik Church Parsonage:  This building dates from 1725 and it is one of the oldest houses on the island.  It is also the only structure in the Government Hill district to retain its simple 18th-century lines. Head west until you see a large orange building called:

11.  Hotel 1829 or Lavalette House:  This place was designed in 1829 by one of the leading merchants of Charlotte Amalie.  It is a historic landmark and a charming hotel that has attracted many of the island’s most famous visitors.  See #9 for tour information.  Inside also contains the famous Amber Museum, boasting the world’s largest amber collection and amber waterfall.  The blue building next door is the:

12.  Galleon House: Follow the signs pointing to the back of the building to a wonderful shady spot for an iced beverage.  Let owner and innkeeper, Chris Markwood, make you a Caribbean drink and tell you about his historic Bed & Breakfast.    He is also a wealth of knowledge for fun activities during your stay on St. Thomas. Tax records indicate the structure was built prior to 1810. Refresh yourself in the shade of the open-air bar. More Info: info@galleonhouse.com or 340-774-6952. Exit the same way that you came, next door is the:

13.  Yellow-Brick Building: (blue shutters) This structure was built in 1854 in what local architects called “the style of Copenhagen”.  You can go inside and browse the shops within.  Double back slightly on Kogens Gade to climb the famous:

14.  99 Steps:  Actually 103 in total, these steps were erected in the early 1700s and take you to the summit of Government Hill.  These steps have lots of history, they are the most photographed steps in the Caribbean.  Lots of wedding, graduation, advertisements, and tourist’s photos have been taken here.  Stop and take your picture on the famous 99 steps.  Walk up to the summit and you will see the 18th-century:

15.  Crown House: It is a yellow house with purple shutters, in front of Blackbeard’s Castle.  This stately private house is immediately to your right, on the south side of the street.  This was the home of Von Scholten, the Danish ruler who issued the famous Proclamation of Emancipation in 1848.  Don’t forget to take your picture to prove that you climbed all of them!  Walk back down and continue east along Kongens Gade, then down a pair of old brick steps until you reach Garden Street.  Go north on Garden Street and take a left onto Crystal Gade or Krystal Gade.  On your left, at the corner of Nye Gade and Crystal Gade, you will see:

16.  St. Thomas Reformed Church:  Four pillars call attention to this yellow building with red doors.  This building dates from 1844 and much of its original structure, designed like a Greek temple, remains intact.  The original church was built in the 1670s.  Continue up Crystal Gade, past St. Thomas Parish, on the north side you will come to the famous:

17.  St. Thomas Synagogue: As famous as the 99 Steps, this is the oldest synagogue in continuous use under the American Flag.  It is also the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.  Erected in 1833 by Sephardic Jews, it still maintains the tradition of having sand on the floor, commemorating the Exodus form Egypt. The stones are made from ballast brick from Denmark and the mortar is made of molasses and sand.  It is open to visitors M-F, 9am-4pm, and is free to tour through.  Through the synagogue at the back is:

18.  Synagogue Museum:  Look around and see over 300 years of Jewish history with lots of artifacts. Upon exiting, visit the gift shop outside and support the synagogue.  Retrace your steps east to Raadets Gade and turn south to the water.  You will cross the famous Vimmelskaft Gade or “Back Street”.  Continue until you reach on the left:

19.   Trench Town Rock: Historic? Not really sure, but the food is Jamacian and delicious!  Here is a great place to eat an early dinner.  The drinks are cold and the goat is spicy. Try some Fungi for a Jamaican flare.  Once you are full and ready to walk off dinner, continue until you reach:

20.  Main Street: This is Charlotte Amalie’s major artery and most famous shopping street.  Turn west and walk along Main Street until you reach the mid-19th-century:

21.  Camille Pissarro Building:  This structure will be on your right.  Pissarro, a Spanish Jew who became one of the founders of French Impressionism, was born in this building as Jacob Pizarro in 1830.  Before moving to Paris, he worked for his father in a store on Main Street.  Several of his paintings are on display in the Government House.  Walk through the alley and upstairs:

22Gallery Camille Pissarro: This art shop has several Pissarro’s on display along with some fun local art.  Continue west along Main Street and on the right you will see:

23.  Enid M. Baa Public Library:  It is a yellow building with green shutters, you can go inside, but only if you are quiet.  This building, formally the Von Bretton House, dates from 1818.  Look across the street and you will see:

24.  Magic Ice: It is an unusual adventure for the whole family. Complete with an ice slide, ice bar, and magic.  $20 per person will get you your very own ice adventure including a parka, beverage, and lots more. Continue west until you reach:

25.  Market Square: Also called “the Bungalow”, this was the center of a large slave-trading market before the 1848 emancipation.  Its official name is called, Rothschild Francis Square, but today it is an open-air fruit and vegetable market.  The wrought-iron roof covered a railway station at the turn of the 20th century.  Usually open 9am-3pm.  Continue toward the:

26.  Waterfront: Heading east, shop along the unique stores while taking in the views.  This is one of the most scenic harbors in the West Indies.  Make your way to the open air tents and buy some island treasures or have a few braids put in before hailing a Safari to take you home.  Enjoy the rest of your stay on the beautiful Caribbean Island of St. Thomas.

 

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