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Friday, August 12, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesWalking Tour Takes 'Step Back' in Time

Walking Tour Takes 'Step Back' in Time

The sun emerges from behind a building as tour participants pause to hear about Charlotte Amalie's historic step streets.Over 60 history enthusiasts toured Charlotte Amalie’s unique step streets this Sunday on a guided visit led by the St. Thomas Historical Trust, which will soon begin a long-awaited restoration project on these traditional walkways.

Mostly built in the early- to mid-19th century to adapt to the town’s steep terrain, the step streets are extensions of flat paved streets. Essential byways to hillside residents and merchants, the step streets are carefully laid with Danish yellow brick, local blue bitch stone, or ashlars (hewn blocks) of solid granite.

Local historians told the story of the Kings Quarter step streets, lined by architecturally and historically significant houses, and urged St. Thomas officials to make their restoration a top priority in order to preserve their unique architectural heritage and to help with tourism.

Philip Sturm, history author and Step Street Committee member, said, “The economic benefit of historic preservation is clear: 150,000 people a year come to see Blackbeard’s Castle, and there is no reason why the whole town should not be like this. We have the product.”

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Tourists looking for a historical wow factor were fascinated that Charlotte Amalie has 45 step streets. Although many have deteriorated, they’re still essential for today’s residents and are also of historical interest given that they run through the town’s oldest areas and pass by some of the most significant architecture.

Visitors found that walking the step streets was a peaceful car-free route to explore history. Denmark’s Anna Walbom, president of the Danish-West Indian Society, was very impressed by the tour. “There are so many people taking part, it is so well organized,” she said. “And it is a really good way to present the past to visitors.”

Step Street Committee Chairman Trevor Millner said that the trust had recently gained approval from the V.I. State Historical Preservation Office to repair and restore two of the step streets, Bredgade and Store Tvaer. These projects should be the first of many if all goes to plan.

The trust hopes to restore three to five per year, replacing concrete with original bricks and carrying out new landscaping. The works will be funded with street adoption by local Rotary Clubs and other private and business sponsors. The contractor will be My Brother’s Workshop, which employs and trains local at-risk youth in the construction and building trades.

“It is a winning combination,” said Millner. “There is a need in the community to repair and maintain the step streets’ historical value, and there is also a need to help and train our young people.”
The walk was the second in a series of step street tours. Upcoming tours will be announced on the trust’s website.

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The sun emerges from behind a building as tour participants pause to hear about Charlotte Amalie's historic step streets.Over 60 history enthusiasts toured Charlotte Amalie’s unique step streets this Sunday on a guided visit led by the St. Thomas Historical Trust, which will soon begin a long-awaited restoration project on these traditional walkways.

Mostly built in the early- to mid-19th century to adapt to the town’s steep terrain, the step streets are extensions of flat paved streets. Essential byways to hillside residents and merchants, the step streets are carefully laid with Danish yellow brick, local blue bitch stone, or ashlars (hewn blocks) of solid granite.

Local historians told the story of the Kings Quarter step streets, lined by architecturally and historically significant houses, and urged St. Thomas officials to make their restoration a top priority in order to preserve their unique architectural heritage and to help with tourism.

Philip Sturm, history author and Step Street Committee member, said, “The economic benefit of historic preservation is clear: 150,000 people a year come to see Blackbeard’s Castle, and there is no reason why the whole town should not be like this. We have the product.”

Tourists looking for a historical wow factor were fascinated that Charlotte Amalie has 45 step streets. Although many have deteriorated, they’re still essential for today’s residents and are also of historical interest given that they run through the town’s oldest areas and pass by some of the most significant architecture.

Visitors found that walking the step streets was a peaceful car-free route to explore history. Denmark’s Anna Walbom, president of the Danish-West Indian Society, was very impressed by the tour. “There are so many people taking part, it is so well organized,” she said. “And it is a really good way to present the past to visitors.”

Step Street Committee Chairman Trevor Millner said that the trust had recently gained approval from the V.I. State Historical Preservation Office to repair and restore two of the step streets, Bredgade and Store Tvaer. These projects should be the first of many if all goes to plan.

The trust hopes to restore three to five per year, replacing concrete with original bricks and carrying out new landscaping. The works will be funded with street adoption by local Rotary Clubs and other private and business sponsors. The contractor will be My Brother’s Workshop, which employs and trains local at-risk youth in the construction and building trades.

“It is a winning combination,” said Millner. “There is a need in the community to repair and maintain the step streets’ historical value, and there is also a need to help and train our young people.”
The walk was the second in a series of step street tours. Upcoming tours will be announced on the trust’s website.