The Inn at Blackbeards Castle, St. Thomas

St. Thomas Virgin Islands History and Lore -from Hotel 1829, St. Thomas USVI; Pirate History

History & Lore
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands


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Blackbeard, by Rick Reeves
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Paintings courtesy Rick Reeves, America's Piratical historical artist

 
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Blackbeard the Pirate
The historical Walking Tour of Blackbeard's Castle and the architectural treasures of Charlotte is included free for guests of Hotel 1829.

There is a muted line between the true history and the myths surrounding Edward Teach (or sometimes "Thatch") who became regarded as Blackbeard the Pirate. Colorful legends often mix bits of reality together with fantasy. The famous name seems to have been taken from his particularly great and bushy black beard.

Charles Johnson's General History of Pyrates describes him: "In time of Action, heBlackbeard, by Rick Reeves wore a Sling over his Shoulders, with three brace of Pistols, hanging in Holsters like Bandoliers; he wore a Fur-Cap, and stuck a lighted Match on each Side, under it, which appearing on each side his Face, his Eyes naturally looking Fierce and Wild, made him altogether such a Figure, that Imagination cannot form an idea of a Fury, from Hell, to look more frightful." That certainly sparks images of a great adventurer!

Blackbeard's encounters with English ships are recorded in varying accounts along the eastern coast of the United States and particularly the Carolinas.

Bringing him closer to the Virgin Islands, Johnson reports, "In December last I had information of a Pyrate Ship of 36 Guns and 250 men, and a Sloop of 10 Guns and a 100 men were Said to be Cruizing amongst the Leeward Islands, I accordingly Sailed hence the 18th of Said month for Antegoa to join the Seaford, there were informed the Said Pyrate Ship and Sloop were gone to Leeward, the 23 December we proceeded for Nevis, and St Christophers, from which Islands I had an Officer and 20 Soldiers put on board me for the Cruize was here informed that Said Pyrates had been off this Island about three weeks before and there Sunk a French Ship load with Sugars, we proceeded to Spanish Town, Santa Cruiz, St Thomas, and Crabb Island."

And here this history joins the stories of the tower known as Blackbeard's Castle on St. Thomas.
 
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Blackbeard's Castle St. Thomas (Skytsborg Tower)
Skytsborg Tower (meaning sky tower), was built in 1679 by the Danes as a watchtower for the harbor of Charlotte Amalie. It is located at the highest point on Skytsborg Tower Government Hill. Danish Soldiers used Skytsborg as a vantage point to spot enemy ships and protect impressive Fort Christian from attacks.

Fort Christian is at sea level, which was ideal for warding off attackers with canon fire, but did not offer a good enough view of the incoming ships before they entered the harbor. It is not known what year Skytsborg Tower took on the name of Blackbeard's Castle, but the infamous Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard, did sail the Caribbean waters in the early 1700s.

It has become part of the lore of the island that he used the Tower as a vantage point for his own treacherous purposes. Blackbeard's Castle is one of four National Historic sites in the US Virgin Islands. It was the centerpiece of a private residence for many years. Now, Blackbeard's Castle is the starting point for the historical walking tour.

 
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Hotel 1829
This small hotel was actually built in 1829 by Alexander Lavalette, a wealthy French sea merchant.

It is one of the largest homes in the Kongens Quarter (King's Quarter) of Charlotte Amalie. The dining room has its original floors, hand painted Moroccan glazed tiles laid in a harlequin pattern with terra cotta tiles from Martinique. It has a beautiful stained glass window by Tiffany called "In Search of the Promised Land". There are 300 year old Italian chess pieces large enough to stand guard on each side of the doorway.

The historic kitchen was originally built inside the main house, which was extraordinary for that era. Kitchens were always built in separate structures because of heat and fire danger. Today, the old kitchen is now the popular bar of the hotel. Hotel 1829 is a "U" shaped house with a large courtyard leading to the West Indian "Welcoming Arms" staircase. The stairs flair out at the base as if embracing you while ascend them. The upstairs areas are for hotel guests only. Standing in front of the hotel, you can still see Alexander Lavalette's initials in the wrought iron of the upstairs balcony. The house became a hotel in 1906.

Hotel 1829 has been featured in Travel & Leisure magazine as a "Gem of a hotel".The dramatic and romantic atmosphere lingers from the bygone era. For more information and photos, visit our Hotel 1829 web pages.

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See our special page for the Historic Walking Tour

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Haagensen House
Haagensen HouseOriginal home of Danish banker Hans Haagensen and his wife Sarah Julia Magens, it was built in 1827.

Haagensen had been sent to St. Thomas from Copenhagen to help run the official Bank of St. Thomas. His wife Sarah was part of the St. Croix Magens family, related to the Magens that had their plantation on the now famous Magens Bay Beach.

Hans and Sarah raised their nine children in this house. The house was built in the grand Charlotte Amalie town residence style, considered Greek revival because of the pediments above the doors and windows. There were no interior staircases to connect the two floors. The staircase with marble tiles is on the outside Haagensen House of the house. Haagensen House has five period exhibit rooms that are managed by the St.Thomas Historical Trust.

On display are West Indian antiques of the era, giving a sense of how well the merchant class of St. Thomas lived in the prosperous early 1800s.The house sits on the hillside directly above Hotel 1829. The terrace of Haagensen House is frequently used today to celebrate weddings.

Haagensen House Haagensen House
Haagensen House
"To appreciate Haagensen House today is to see it as a slice of island life in the 1800s."
           Caribbean World magazine
See our special page for the Historic Walking Tour

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Villa Notman
This charming stone and yellow brick villa was built by Scottish engineer, Robert Notman in 1860. He came to St. Thomas to help build what is now the West Indian Company Dock. It was home to him, his wife Mary and their daughter Jane.

Villa NotmanVilla Notman is one of the sixteen on the island built out of the native stone called "Blue Bitch" (because it is very hard to cleave) and yellow ballast brick used to weight the hulls of ships that traveled from Europe to the West Indies.

The house has an exceptional cast iron double balcony imported from New Orleans. The top floor is now a house museum that showcases four exhibit rooms all filled with period West Indian, European and American antique furniture. This varied collection ties together the points of the triangle trade routes of the era.

The house also features a park-like fragrance garden, planted with Bayrum trees, Plumeria (used in making perfume) and other tropical delights.

 

Hotel 1829 St Thomas
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History and Lore of St. Thomas, from Hotel 1829, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands -