Historical 99 Steps in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
99 Steps is located on Government Hill, in downtown Charlotte Amalie, nestled between Hotel 1829 and Government House on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. This staircase is kept vibrantly landscaped today and is used by locals as a practical means of traversing the steep hillside, as well as by visitors on an historical walking tour of downtown. One thing is certain… this famous staircase has seen a lot of foot action over the centuries.
The 99 Steps, which peculiarly actually has 103 steps, were built by the Danes in the mid 1700s. It is said that Danish engineers, who had never stepped foot on the island and were not familiar with its steep topography, ordered that the city be laid out in a grid format. As a result of this impractical planning, the infamous 99 Steps were constructed, along with many other hillside stairways that lead up the steep terrain from downtown Charlotte Amalie.
At that time, the most accessible material to be used for the staircase construction was brick. Bricks were piled into the hulls of British and Danish tall ships for their voyage to the Caribbean from the old world. These bricks were used as ballast for better sailing over the long distances. Once the ships arrived in St. Thomas, they were loaded with goods from the islands to take back to Europe, so with additional weight no longer needed, the bricks were discarded on the island. These bricks were then used in the building of various buildings, churches and… the infamous 99 Steps.
The 99 Steps, as well as other staircases around town, remain to this day as one of the easiest ways on foot to reach your hillside destination. 99 Steps will lead you to various historical sites at both the top and bottom. So, if you’re on your own walking tour throughout downtown Charlotte Amalie, just… “follow the yellow brick road”.