Cruz Bay has become a hub for tourists enjoying happy hours, shopping, and dining, with the waterfront town’s rich history taking a back seat to visitors in pursuit of vacation fun.
Now, a new publication by the St. John Historical Society aims to pull Cruz Bay’s historic roots back to the forefront.
The non-profit organization’s Historical Walking Map of Cruz Bay offers a guided tour that begins and ends at the Loredon L. Boynes Sr. Dock, where most visitors arrive to the island.
The historical society’s President Lonnie Willis, a longtime Cruz Bay business owner, said the map is something she’d been wanting to produce for a long time. Thwarted by the 2017 hurricane season and then the pandemic, the map has finally come to fruition.
“I would be walking around town doing my errands and I’d run into tourists who’d say, ‘We only have a couple of hours here and we don’t want to shop. What do we do?’” said Willis. “I would tell them there’s plenty of things to see but I didn’t have anything to give them because all the maps were based on advertising for shopping.”
The town of Cruz Bay was officially listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 and after reading David Knight Sr.’s book, Cruz Bay From Conquest to Exploitation, A Forgotten History, Willis realized the information needed to create a historical walking map was available.
With the help of a $5,000 grant from the Edward K. Towle Fund for Sustainable Islands and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, artist Lisa Etre was commissioned to create a rendering of the town and Kate N Design’s Kate Norfleet was hired to design the map’s layout.
The result is a glossy two-sided publication that features Etre’s map with numbers denoting historic sites, which are detailed with short write-ups.
There’s a timeline of the establishment of the town of Cruz Bay starting in 1680, when Danish West Indies census documents recorded Danish-sanctioned settlers on St. John, as well as photos of notable Cruz Bay sites taken throughout the 20th century.
“Cruz Bay still has things to be seen and to know about, so we’re hoping to get the map into the hands of tourists who want to learn about what was here and how the town has evolved,” said Willis.
Points of interest range from government buildings like the Battery, to natural features like a lignum vitae tree planted in 1910, to private homes like Gilbert Sprauve’s cottage.
The map takes visitors through 20 sites, some of which have multiple historic features to discover.
The Historical Walking Map of Cruz Bay is currently being printed and will soon be retailed on the historical society’s website, www.stjohnhistoricalsociety.org, and at local businesses.