The Virgin Islands of the United States are collectively a territory of the United States of America. These islands are a recent addition to the country, so what is the capital city of the territory?
The capital of the United States Virgin Islands is Charlotte Amalie. Charlotte Amalie has been the capital city of the territory for as long as it has been a part of the United States. The city was first made the capital of the former Danish West Indies in 1672 and remained so for the majority of the colony’s history.
In the rest of the article, we are going to learn more about the city of Charlotte Amalie, looking at its long and storied history as well as what you can see there if you visit today.
Where Is the Capital of the US Virgin Islands Located?
Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the United States Virgin Islands, is located on the south shore of the island of Saint Thomas, about halfway between the west and east ends. It sits on Saint Thomas Harbor, a natural formation that led to the city’s settlement and development.
Of the three main islands of the United States Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas, upon which Charlotte Amalie is located, is the one in the northwest corner. This makes it the closest of the three main islands to the mainland United States of America.
Brief History of Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie was chartered in 1671 to be the administrative center of the newly established Danish colonial possessions in the Caribbean. The site had been populated by native people before this, however.
The city grew quickly until 1754, when the capital of the Danish West Indies was moved to Christiansted, a city on another island in the archipelago. This change did not lead to the decline of Charlotte Amalie, but rather an adaptation.
Charlotte Amalie was made the capital of the Danish West Indies once again in 1871.
In 1917, the Danish West Indies were bought by the United States of America to become the US Virgin Islands. The city of Charlotte Amalie was made the capital of the new territory.
Starting in the latter half of the 20th century, the economy of Charlotte Amalie has been experiencing explosive growth and prosperity through its tourist industry. As part of the United States, it provides easy Caribbean vacations to American tourists. The city has even become the host to many second homes owned by American mainlanders due to its idyllic location and geography.
When Did Charlotte Amalie Become the Capital of the US Virgin Islands?
Charlotte Amalie has been the capital of the US Virgin Islands since they were annexed to the United States of America in 1917. Before this, Charlotte Amalie was the capital city of the Danish West Indies.
Charlotte Amalie was the first capital of the Danish West Indies and was built to serve as such. King Christian V of Denmark and Norway chartered the Danish West India Company in 1671, and he chartered the city of Charlotte Amalie the same year.
By 1672, the Danish West Indies was established and the city of Charlotte Amalie had a Danish presence, with the ongoing construction of Fort Christian underway at the site.
For a period of 127 years starting in 1754, the capital of the Danish West Indies was moved to the island of Saint Croix in the form of the town of Christiansted. This decision was reversed in 1871, at which point Charlotte Amalie once again became the capital of the Danish West Indies.
Since 1871, Charlotte Amalie has continued to be the capital of both the Danish West Indies and the United States Virgin Islands that succeeded them without interruption.
Why Is Charlotte Amalie the Capital of the US Virgin Islands?
Charlotte Amalie’s function as the first and longest lasting capital of the original Danish West Indies is tied to the presence of Fort Christian. The fort was an important source of Denmark’s power projection throughout the centuries.
This was then amplified by the natural geography of the site, with it sitting on a very accommodating natural harbor. This harbor made Charlotte Amalie an ideal location for shipping and trade, which was the purpose of Denmark’s colonization of the Caribbean in the first place.
When the United States Virgin Islands was formed in 1917, they inherited Charlotte Amalie as a capital city from the preceding Danish West Indies. Charlotte Amalie continues to be the largest city in the US Virgin Islands, and so it has continued to be the territory’s capital.
Best Places to Visit in Charlotte Amalie
If you find yourself visiting Charlotte Amalie, there are tons of sites you should check out. Let’s look at a few of the best ones.
99 Steps and Blackbeard’s Castle: One of the many staircases throughout the streets of Charlotte Amalie is the 99 Steps. The view as you walk them is magnificent, and when you get to the end, you get to visit Blackbeard’s Castle.
Fort Christian: Speaking of castles, the anchor of Charlotte Amalie’s history is the old Fort Christian. At over 350 years old, this fort can bring you back in time to the very foundations of the city. If you are a big history fan, a stop at Fort Christian is absolutely mandatory for your trip to Charlotte Amalie.
The Beaches: Whether you want to enjoy the calm and shallow waters of Magens Beach, snorkel at Coki Beach, or experience the unique features of any of the others, the island is your oyster. Saint Thomas is a small island, and every part of it is accessible from Charlotte Amalie, so take your pick.
The US Virgin Islands are the United States of America’s little slice of paradise in the Caribbean, and the city of Charlotte Amalie serves as their capital. Whether you are visiting to delve into the storied history of the former Danish colony or simply to enjoy the stunning nature, there is a little bit of something for everyone in Charlotte Amalie.