A Brief History...
Fort Christian, at the grand age of 326 years, is the oldest standing structure in continuous use in the Virgin Islands and the oldest Danish fortication under the American flag. In 1977, Fort Christian was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior's National Park Service.
The first group of Danish Colonizers landed on the island of St. Thomas in 1666, but was unseccessful in establishing a permanent settlement. Work on Fort Christian started shortly after a second Danish group, under the charter of the Danish West India Company, established a settlement on St. Thomas in 1672. Under the leadership of Jorgen Iversen, the colony's governor, Fort Christian was constructed between 1672 and 1680. In 1678 during Demark's European war with France, work on the fort progressed well enough that the settlement was able to fend off an attack of French forces from the neighboring island of St. Croix.
Christiansfort, as it was known then, was the first seat of government in the Danish West Indies. The Fort, in addition to its military role, also housed the colony's first Lutheran Church and Governor's Residence. In 1874, a major renovation was undertaken to convert the Fort to a Police Station. This included the demolition of the Fort's north curtain wall, 17th century Tryborg Tower in the courtyard, and the removal of its military barracks to what is now the Legislature building. The new facade of Fort Christian became the Gothic Revival clock tower, which is its trademark today. Years later, the Fort also served as the island's prison. In 1971, the Virgin Island Museum of Fine Arts moved into the lower cell level of the Fort while it was still operating as a Police Station, Prison, and Court facility. After the relocation of the Police station, prison, and the Civil Defense from the fort during the 1980's, the Museum occupied the entire fortification. Today, Fort Christian is the home to the Virgin Islands Museum of Fine Arts.