St Eustatius boasts an interesting and diverse history. While today the island may seem like a hidden piece of paradise and a perfectly untouched gem, it was once the most important port in the expanding empires of European powers. The island is strongly linked with the US, as it was the first to officially recognize the newly formed United States of America as an independent country, in an act that is known as the ‘first salute’.
Treasure trove of culture
The island is also a large open air museum that will take your breath away. The history Statia lies both above and below the waters. The only city on the island is called Oranjestad. A rugged cliff splits the city’s development into what is known as Upper Town and Lower Town. These two are connected to each other by the steep Bay Road. After a thorough restoration, Upper Town’s historic center is now the cultural treasure room for the entire Caribbean.
Blue beads were Statia’s local currency in the 17th century. The famous Dutch West India Company used these beads to trade in tobacco, cotton, rum, and slaves. To this very day, the beads reappear whenever a fierce storm stirs up the sand on the bottom of the sea and around the island.
Pictures credited to Mr. Cees Timmers
The jewish synagogue was built in 1739, an impressive two story building completely built from imported Dutch yellow bricks with cut stones from local volcanic rock decorating the door and window openings. The synagogue was used by both Sephardic and Ashkenazy Jews.
The fort was built on a strategic corner of the cliff, overlooking the anchorage of Oranje Bay and the climbing path leading from the beach up to the rest of the island.
Dutch Reform Church
This church was built in 1755. The north and west walls of the tower were plastered white to serve as a beacon for those at sea. It is one of the most ecumenical buildings on Statia.