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It’s summer here all year long. The cool breezes of the tropical trade winds keep the humidity at a minimum. In winter, temperatures range from the 70’s through the mid 80’s. St. Croix is the “big” island, largest of the U. S. Virgin Islands. We are just forty miles south of our sister islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Ninety miles to the west of us lies another American neighbor, Puerto Rico. That let’s you know that we are in the heart of the best places to visit in the Caribbean. Come, play on our pristine beaches and swim in our crystal clear bays. Discover paradise. It’s not lost, it can be found right here in the most beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Visit St. Croix, “Gem of the Caribbean.”

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Photo @ gotostcroix
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Photo @ gotostcroix
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Photo @ gotostcroix
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Photo @ gotostcroix

U. S. Virgin Islands administration passed from the U. S. Navy to the Dept. of the Interior in1936 mandated by the U. S. Congress under the Territorial Organic Act which was again revised in 1954 leading toward full self-governance since 1970. Tourism became an economic reality beginning in the mid-1950’s and the economy diversified further beginning around 1960 with the Hess Oil Company refinery, now HOVENSA, a bauxite processing plant initially under Harvey Aluminum, and a watch and textile industry. The latter industries have declined and in 1998 Hurricane Hugo dealt a devastating blow to a tourism industry poised to take off. Gambling was legalized on St. Croix as a means to reviving it, with mixed results to date. The real attractions remain its Seven Flags history, its diverse ecology from the cactus-studded east end to the rain-forest draped west end, fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving in pristine bays of turquoise waters, its melting pot of cultures, and a laid back pace of living. Sugar Hill by the Sea affords you access to it all.

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History
Renowned for their cannibalistic ways, the Caribs were equally ungracious in the first documented encounter with Europeans as Columbus and crew anchored at St. Croix’s Salt River entrance. In quest of fresh water they were accosted by a band of returning warriors. The date, November 14, 1493, gave occasion to St. Croix’s naming, Santa Cruz in Spanish, and as part of the Virgin Islands named after St. Ursula and her thousand virgins.

By the time that St. Croix was permanently settled in the early 1600’s, none of the approximately forty aboriginal village sites were any longer inhabited. Their artifacts can be seen as part of the Folmer Andersen Collection now property of the National Park Service in Christiansted. The St. George Botanical Gardens is situated near one of them. The last recorded sightings were those of Capt. John White in 1587 and in 1590 enroute to his Roanoke Island assignment by Sir Walter Raleigh.

English, Dutch, and French settlers vied for footholds on St. Croix and were repeatedly dislodged by Spaniards, resident on Puerto Rico. The Bassin Triangle area in Christiansted was a Dutch base. Southwest St. Croix was worked by English farmers. The English had a short-lived ascendancy that ended with a final Spanish massacre or expulsion in 1650, the latter’s last control of St. Croix which ended when driven out by the French under Governor DePoincy.

The French built an earthen fort at the mouth of Salt River opposite its headquarters in Judith’s Fancy. In 1653 DePoincy’s private possessions were granted to the Knights of Malta whose overlordship never really prospered. The French West India Co. bought St. Croix from the Knights of Malta in 1665. In 1674 the King of France paid off company debts and took possession. After the French Crown perennially lost money on St. Croix, Louis XIV ordered all inhabitants removed to St. Dominque(Haiti) at Christmas time,1695.

Farm animals left behind multiplied and became provisions for buccaneers. Some English families were squatters during the period of French abandonment and were on hand when the Danish West India and Guinea Company bought St. Croix from the French Crown in 1733. Denmark took over the island as a crown colony in 1755. The nine quarters and innumerable estates that mark off St. Croix geography date back to this period. There soon followed St. Croix’s golden age, the last half of the 18th. century when sugar and rum made St. Croix planters wealthy on the backs of slave labor. All that was soon to change.

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Photo @ gotostcoix

In 1792 the Danish government declared the slave trade to be unlawful, but allowed a transition period until 1803 when the slave trade was completely abolished. The British occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, 1807-1815, was a slight economic reprieve during what was a downward spiraling sugar economy fueled by natural disasters, earthquake and tidal wave in 1872 and a severe hurricane in 1876, labor unrest, emancipation was declared in 1848 after riots began and Fireburn in1878, and a decade long depression following the latter coupled with the development of the sugar beet in Europe.

1878 was noteworthy also as the year the first great sugar central began operating on St. Croix. This Bethlehem Sugar Central eventually drove all the independent estate factories out of business, then itself closed in 1930 when its stockholders refused to put up new funds. Now a U. S. Territory, purchased from Denmark on March 31, 1917 mainly to keep it out of the hands of the Germans during World War I, prospects hadn’t changed as the Crucians had hoped. Prohibition added insult to injury for the rum industry. Another hurricane in 1928 presaged the Great Depression. Conditions gradually improved as Bethlehem reopened, and the New Deal came to St. Croix. Commercially grown sugar cane persisted until about 1960.

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Photo @ gotostcoix