St. Thomas, Danish West Indies

St. Thomas Harbor (photo from Ron Lockhart collection)
St. Thomas Harbor (photo from Ron Lockhart collection)

The above photo is from the collection of Ron Lockhart of St. Thomas who has a veritable treasure chest of old post cards and photographs going back to the days when it wasn’t “St. Thomas USVI (United States Virgin Islands),” but rather, “St. Thomas, DWI “(Danish West Indies).”

If you look closely you can see that what is now Veterans Drive did not exist. It was built on fill in the 1950s. The long rectangular warehouses separated by narrow alleyways, now used as shops and pubs and restaurants, ran right into the harbor each with their own private wharf.

Charlotte Amalie Waterfront (Ron Lockhart collection)
Charlotte Amalie Waterfront (Ron Lockhart collection)

The following is excerpted from the book “St. Thomas, USVI”

The Waterfront

As the importance of St. Thomas and its maritime economy grew, so did the town. Harbor frontage became very expensive and as a result, building lots tended to be long and narrow with just enough exposure to the harbor as would permit the implementation of piers and boat slips.

For the same reason, wide streets were not employed to connect the waterfront to Main Street. Instead there were a series of narrow alleyways, which is evident to this day.

Private residences were built on the other, less expensive, landward side of the street and eventually on the valleys and hillsides adjacent to the harbor.

The 20th century brought automobiles to the island and soon traffic on the steep, narrow streets of Charlotte Amalie became so congested that beginning in the 1940s, the harbor was filled in in front of the commercial warehouses, and by 1950, a new modern  road, Veterans Highway, was constructed south of Main Street running alongside the waterfront.

Charlotte Amalie has maintained much of its old character, as both a bustling Caribbean seaport, hosting cruise ships, pleasure yachts and cargo vessels from all around the world, and as a shopping Mecca, offering millions of visitors every year a treasure trove of duty-free shopping delights.

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