One of the best collections of maps and drawings from the Danish West Indies was made by the officer Peter Lotharius Oxholm in the years 1778-1780. The collection contains 32 maps and drawings, including 9 maps from Christiansted on St. Croix.
The town of Christiansted lies on the middle of the northern coast of St. Croix, surrounded by the plantations indicated on the map. However, it has been drawn primarily to explain about the harbor, called Bassin (“The Basin”). As shown, the coral reef protected the harbor, but it also meant that the entrance had to occur farthest toward the east through a relatively tortuous channel. In the harbor lies Protestantkajen (Protestant Cay), the small islet where the pilot had his residence and where the ships could be repaired and take on provisions. The harbor was guarded by the cannon battery “Louise Augusta” on the outermost point along the entrance and by Fort Christiansværn on the harbor front of the town itself. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.301).
The central portions of the most important streets such as Kongensgade (King Street), Kompagnietsgade (Company Street), Dronningensgade (Queen Street) and the intersecting Hospitalsgade (Hospital Street), Dronningens Tværgade (Queen Cross Street) and Kongens Tværgade (King Cross Street) were developed with brick buildings. Less wealthy Europeans and the free coloreds lived farther away from the town center. Even in Oxholm’s time, however, there were a great number of undeveloped lots in the town. They were located in part on very hilly land, which together with the uneven streets’ poor condition resulted in many traffic problems. In Christiansted there were four churches and one synagogue. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.303).
The harbor square, called Værftet (the shipyard), was the center of the town of Christiansted. Here along the harbor lay Fort Christiansværn and an utterly collapsed customs and weighing house, along with a number of private warehouses, rum booths and other buildings related to trade and shipping. The drawing is a vision of the future, because it shows how Oxholm imagined that it should appear on the harbor square. A new solid customs and weighing house was to be built, along with a victualing yard and arsenal with a triangular floor plan, and the wharf was to be repaired. The plan was estimated to cost all of 30,000 rigsdaler West Indies courant. Only parts of it were completed. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.304).
The drawing shows the fort’s main floor, where the commander had his rooms in the main wing. Up here it was airier and more comfortable than on the ground floor, where enlisted men and officers lived. Toward the water lay the sea battery equipped with powerful cannons. The cannons which were aimed landward, and which were intended to defend the fort against internal rebellion, were less powerful. Under the stairs were some very narrow jail cells intended for enslaved laborers who were to be punished. The garrison’s own personnel also lived under particularly close and unbearably hot conditions. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.306).
The drawing shows at top the fort’s facade toward the town. The main wing of the nearly square installation was – and is – flanked by corner bastions. At the bottom is a cross-section through the fort, where the water and the sea battery are at right. Following this are the powder room, the small clock tower, the enclosed yard, the main wing and the forecourt. The solid fort has never been attacked, but it surrendered in 1801 and 1807 without a fight to the numerically superior British. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.308).
Oxholm’s plan for construction of entrenchments on Protestantkajen (Protestant Cay), the small islet in Christiansted harbor. For a long time the islet had been equipped with thee small batteries. But for 12,000-13,000 rigsdaler, the new cannon batteries and barracks shown could be had on the top of the island, from which both the entrance and the harbor could be protected. And in special instances even the town. The whole thing was to be protected by stands of prickly cacti and manned with five non-commissioned officers and fifty-two enlisted soldiers. However, the left part of the islet could be used as before for ship maintenance. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.310).
This large battery was located on the coast along the outer end of the approach to Christiansted, but it was only equipped with smaller cannons. From here, an eye could be kept on arriving ships and the entrance to the harbor could be controlled. The building contained a guardroom, powder room and a room for the non-commissioned officers. In order to ensure the water supply, cisterns were used to collect rainwater. As can be seen, it is located (c) between the two breastworks of raised earth, which Oxholm suggested be constructed in order to protect the otherwise exposed soldiers. Note that the small kitchen has been situated as it was customary in the Danish West Indies: at an appropriate distance from the main building in consideration of the fire danger. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.313).
Governor-General Peter Clausen (1721-1784) reigned in the Government House with the impressive facade facing Kongensgade (King Street) from 1773 to 1784. On the ground floor, there were storerooms and offices, on the main floor the government hall and other representative offices, while the upper floor housed the private residence. The secretaries’ residence was in the yard, in addition to slave quarters, kitchen, stables, carriage shed and more. The Government House was in poor condition, among other things because of intruding water from pipes that carried collected rainwater from the roof down to faucets in the rooms on the various floors. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.315).
The military hospital on Hospitalsgade (Hospital Street) was surrounded in part by a wall, in part by a board fence. The area also included a residence for the hospital warden, sickrooms and slave quarters, along with a free-standing kitchen and privy. In the yard there was a very large cistern for collecting rainwater. The conditions were utterly poor at the hospital, and mattresses, pillows and sheets for the ill were lacking. However, the patients did not dare complain, as otherwise they risked being sent back to the hard service of a soldier. Oxholm proposed that the military hospital be torn down and a new one be constructed at a healthy location directly outside the town. (Danish National Archives, Rentekammersamlingen, no. 337.316).