When I was in St. Thomas recently, I visited the historical complex of “Blackbeard’s Castle,” which is right in the middle of downtown Charlotte Amalie. There’s no castle and very little having to do with Blackbeard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting.
The “castle” is a lookout tower built in 1679 to spot invaders. You can climb to the top and enjoy a beautiful view of the harbor, but the experience is pretty much equivalent to visiting any lighthouse.
The real treasures of this site are found in the three historical houses nearby, which are filled with incredible collections of West Indian antiques AND a staff of knowledgable and enthusiastic guides. Unfortunately, during my tour, I scribbled so many notes all over my brochure that I can hardly read either the original text or my additions to it.
One highlight (one of the legible ones, anyway) was seeing a “planter’s chair” and a “ladies chair.” The planter’s chair was set low with long wide arms so that a gentleman could sit back, put up his feet, and cool off. It’s also sometimes called a “hammock chair.”
The ladies’ version featured arms that could swing in and out to make room for voluminous skirts.
The houses are all furnished to approximately the time of their construction, which was 1822, 1847 and 1860. Ladies’ skirts were just starting to grow in the early 1820s, and of course we know that by the middle of the century, a lady of fashion could take up as much room as a small bus with her layers of petticoats, crinolines and hoops. What was suprising in this prudish era is that women would be allowed to put up their feet. I assume this could only be done in private! (more…)