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Revisiting the History of the Capitol Building of the Virgin Islands Legislature

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The present Legislature of the Virgin Islands is a 15-member body in which all the legislative powers of the territory are vested. It enjoys the powers & privileges held by most state legislatures of the United States. The Capitol Building, in which the body is housed, is located on the Island of St. Thomas.

The Capitol Bldg is an exceptional example of 19-century classical architecture. This building replaced 2 earlier military structures dating to the periods of 1827 & 1873. The present building was constructed in 1874, at a cost of $29,000, for the purposes of military barracks for Fort Christian & a battery installation. The Roman numerals on the portal of the building are MDCCCLXXIV (1874).

The building was used to house the Danish Militia & the Gendarmes until 1917. The formal Transfer Day ceremonies of the islands from Denmark to the US took place on the grounds of the building on March 31, 1917. From that time until 1931, when the transfer to civil government took place, the building was used as a barracks for the US Marines. From 1931 to 1955 the building was used as the site of the Charlotte Amalie High School with an interruption during World War II caused when it was taken over by the military to incarcerate prisoners brought to St. Thomas off a Vichy ship captured by the US Navy in the Eastern Caribbean Sea.

In 1957, the Legislature, which formerly met on the top floor of the Enid Baa Library, & the Dept. of Social Welfare, moved into the building with the Legislature occupying the top floor & Social Welfare the 1st floor. However, as the Legislature & its staff expanded, it became necessary to occupy both floors. Around 1970, the Legislature occupied the entire building.

Visit the Legislature: www.legvi.org and click the links in "Staying Connected".

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