St. Croix: An Island Rich in History and Tradition

St. Croix’s historical treasures can be traced back to a time when the island was a prosperous commercial port, sometimes plagued by looting pirates along its coastline. Today, colorful and well-stocked shops and fine restaurants are housed in old colonial structures lining St. Croix’s wide streets. The island’s distinctly 18th-century European architecture reflects a period when seven flags – Spanish, Dutch, British, French, Knights of Malta, Danish and American – flew at different times over the island.

Christiansted, once the capital of the U.S.V.I., is the perfect place for travelers to begin their journey into St. Croix’s past. Standing sentry over Christiansted Harbour is Christiansvaern, an imposing, yellow-brick fort built by the Danes to ward off pirates and imprison those who were caught plundering the island’s ports. Nearby, Christiansted’s Steeple Building, the first church to be built on the island by the Danes, is now a museum housing artifacts from St. Croix’s Carib and Arawak Indian settlements, as well as its colonial past. Another church of historic note is Friedensthal Moravian Church, the oldest church of its kind under the American flag. The town is also home to another historic landmark, the Christiansted Apothecary. Founded in 1828 by a Danish pharmacist, the shop operated at the same address until its doors closed to business in 1970. However, the property has now been transformed into a major cultural attraction displaying a wide range of historic objects and artifacts from the original shop.

St. Croix’s other main town, Frederiksted, also has a massive stone fort that was built to protect it from marauding pirates. The town boasts a number of well-maintained Victorian houses and 19th-century churches as well as the island’s only lighthouse. Built in the late-1800s, the lighthouse still towers over Frederiksted port from its vantage point on Hams Bluff.

Away from the towns, visitors to St. Croix can also discover reminders of the days when sugar cultivation was the island’s main industry. Dotted around the island are the remains of 54 sugar mills, where crumbling windmill towers rest in the shadows of stately 18th- and 19th-century greathouses. Some of these, such as Estate Island Plantation Museum, have been lovingly restored to their former splendor and are now popular tourist attractions.

Visitors are sure to encounter some of St. Croix’s rich cultural diversity in the form of arts, crafts and music. Dancing “mocko jumbies,” scratch bands, quelbe, reggae and calypso music, steel bands and salsa are among the diverse sights and sounds that add to the island’s broad cultural mix.

Many of these traditions are preserved and taught by The Caribbean Dance Company established on St. Croix in 1977, which regularly shares the exuberance of its folk dancing with visitors.

Blessed with captivating natural beauty, extraordinary historic sites and lively cultural traditions, St. Croix offers a mix of attractions that draws new and repeat visitors to the island.

For information about the United States Virgin Islands, call 800-372-USVI (8784) and visit http://www.usvitourism.vi. As a United States Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require proof of citizenship from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.