Pirates have been around for as long as Mankind has plied the seas for trade and commerce over several Millennia ago. Images of skulls and crossbones, eye patches, parrots, black hats, hooked hands and wooden legs will conjure up in one’s mind when thinking about these sea-faring robbers. For the Western World, no pirate has been more infamous and vilified as Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard).
Blackbeard was around during the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean (1650s – 1730s) when pirates took control of specific trade routes in the West Indies where European navies were very weak or non-existent and the United States of America was still a mere British colony.
When I found out that my cruise ship was offering a day trip around St.Thomas, which included the famous Blackbeard’s Castle Walking Tour, I knew immediately that was exactly what I wanted to do during our short stay on the island.
After several hours of touring St. Thomas, we finally made our way to Blackbeard’s Castle. Despite its name, Blackbeard’s Castle is actually a lookout tower called Skytsborg Tower. Now considered a National Landmark, Skytsborg Tower (literally translated as Sky Tower) was used as a lookout tower to protect Fort Christian from invaders coming from the North side of the island, as well as to keep an eye on ships coming in from the horizon on the South side. You can find Blackbeard’s Castle at 38 Dronningens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
One of several historic buildings in Kongens Quarter, Villa Notman is the next stop on the Blackbeard’s Castle Walking Tour. Built in 1860 by Robert Notman, a Scottish Engineer who came to St.Thomas to help build the West Indian Company Dock, this stone and yellow brick villa gives a glimpse of what island life was like on St.Thomas in the late 1800s/early 1900s.
This villa has exchanged ownership several times over the past 150 years, and is one of the few houses on St.Thomas to be built out of Augite Andesite (Blue Bit), which is a native stone to island. Villa Notman can be found at 36A & B Dronningens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
Following Villa Notman, we headed over to Britannia House. Built in 1847, Britannia House gets its name from Robert Boyd Lamb, her Britannic Majesty’s consul on the island of St.Thomas. It is one of the few remaining wooden residences from this era. Britannia House can be found at 43 Dronningens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
Next we visited Haagensen House, which is located at the top of 99 Steps on the west side. Built in 1822, this house survived several fires over the years before Danish banker, Hans Haagensen, arrived in St.Thomas in 1837 to run the Bank of St.Thomas. Much like Villa Notman, Haagensen House offers a glimpse of what life was like for the upper class merchants in the 1800s. You can find Haagensen House at 30 Kongens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
This peculiar attraction is situated on Government Hill, and is the primary route between Haagensen House and Hotel 1829. Charlotte Amaelie has several step streets – or frigangs as Danes call them – which were built around the mid-1700s. 99 Steps just happens to be the most popular of the frigangs, and the bricks used to build them actually came from Denmark. And for the record, the 99 steps are actually 103 steps. But, who’s counting? ;)
As our walking tour continued, we reached Hotel 1829 at the bottom of 99 Steps. This building bridges historic Kongens Quarter (King’s Quarter) with the business district of Charlotte Amalie. Originally built for a French seas captain, Hotel 1829 was at one point one of the largest residences in the King’s Quarter until Dr. Charles Taylor opened it as a hotel in 1900. Hotel 1829 can be found at 30 Kongens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
Following our visit at Hotel 1829, our half-day tour of St.Thomas, and more specifically, the Blackbeard’s Castle Walking Tour concluded. At this point, we were free to roam around Charlotte Amalie for a couple more hours before having to board our cruise ship. That in itself was an adventure all on its own, but I will save that story for another day.