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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 22, 2024


Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt endorsed a proposal to turn the Christiansted post office into a museum chronicling the African slave trade during a tour of the downtown historic district on Tuesday.
What remains to be seen, however, is if the U.S. Postal Service, which owns the historic building, will forego a $1.2-million selling price and instead give the building to the National Park Service.
Two years ago the Postal Service announced that it was leaving the 250-year-old Danish West Indies & Guinea Co. warehouse building in order to find a larger downtown location. The Park Service, the owner of the Christiansted National Historic Site in which the building sits, wants to turn the structure into a museum dedicated to the African slave trade.
As Interior secretary Babbitt oversees the Park Service. Standing in the post office lobby on Tuesday morning with St. Croix Park Service Superintendent Joel Tutein, Babbitt said he supported the museum idea.
"I endorse Superintendent Tutein’s position 100 percent," Babbitt said. "I’ll see what I can do about it."
Whatever Babbitt can do will have to happen soon because his tenure as secretary will end in December when President Clinton leaves office. Tom Pino, an asset manager for the Postal Service, didn’t return several calls to his office.
"We feel it should be a no-cost transfer," Tutein said, adding that the director of the Park Service also supports the plan and has pledged the $10 million needed to renovate the landmark building.
The management plan for the Christiansted National Historic Site, which includes Fort Christiansvaern, the Scale House, Customs House and Steeple Building, calls for the Park Service to tell the story of St. Croix between 1735 and 1917, when the Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark.
So far, military, religious and trade histories have been interpreted, but not that of the 50,000 enslaved Africans imported to St. Croix and sold on the stairs of Danish West Indies & Guinea Co. warehouse building, which now houses the post office.
Babbitt said the building should be remain in the public domain "as a perpetual exhibit of a very sad part of European history."

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