In 1917, the Danish West Indies were sold to the United States, but traces of the often violent history shared by Denmark and the islands can be seen everywhere. The built environment and the landscape culture on the islands are globally unique. The towns, the forts, the hundreds of plantation ruins, the many churches and school buildings, and the landscape of the US Virgin Islands in its entirety constitute a monument to the age of slavery, an age in which Danes were colonial masters and, for better or worse, created a lasting legacy in the West Indies. These features serve as reminders of a time when the modern society of the US Virgin Islands began to take shape.
When architecture tells the story describes a large number of localities typical of the architecture and landscapes of the former Danish West Indies. At the same time, these places are important points of access to understanding the history of the islands and the people who populated them, including the masons who built the forts, the architects behind the city plans and the schools, the cartographers, the officials of the Danish West India–Guinea Company and the government, the plantation owners, the enslaved, and the free colored carpenters.
Ulla Lunn (b. 1954) is an architect and has spent many years informing the public about the history of the unique architecture of the US Virgin Islands and making the case for its preservation.