St. Croix: America's Caribbean Is Swimming in History. (Special Advertising Section)

Article excerpt

Over sparkling sands and emerald waters, a forbidding sentinel silently watches the sea, as it has for 250 years. The first foreign salute to the flag of the new United States was fired from it in 1776. Today, the Stars and Stripes fly above it.

Fort Frederiksted stands guard over St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a tropical treasure that weds the allure of the exotic to the comfort of U.S. soil, where crab races and dashing mongooses, glass-bottom boats and submarine rides, echoes of slaves and freedom fighters vie for the traveler's attention.

The island where Alexander Hamilton spent his boyhood, St. Croix today is a living museum of Europe's scramble to build an empire and of the sugar economy that, until the 1960s, shaped island life. Happily, the new Heritage Trail, named one of 50 Millennium Legacy Trails by the White House Millennium Council, links the island's many points of interest, including those designated national historic sites.

The neoclassical architecture of two pastel seaports, Christiansted and Frederiksted, stands in tribute to the Danes, who ruled St. Croix until the U.S. bought it in 1917. Visitors can follow the towns' boulevards to the 1749 Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, where once slaves were auctioned; the Lutheran Church Lord God of Sabaoth, the oldest of its denomination under the American flag; Christiansted Apothecary Hall, housing more than 600 early 19th-century wares; and the landmark Victorian House, with its delightful gingerbread decoration.

At the restored 18th-century estate Whim Plantation Museum, visitors will lose themselves in plantation lore, marvel at the exquisite great house and its extraordinary mahogany furniture, and perhaps sample a johnny cake before moving on to the tasting bar at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. …