Fort Amsterdam (Curaçao)
History and museums
Fort Amsterdam is a fort located in Willemstad, Curaçao. It was constructed in 1634 by the Dutch West India Company (DWIC) and served not only as a military fort but also as the headquarters of the DWIC. Currently it serves as the seat of the government and governor of Curaçao. The fort is named after the Amsterdam chamber of the DWIC and was considered the main of eight forts on the island.
In the 1630s the Dutch West India Company was searching for a new outpost in the Caribbean. The company set its sight on Curaçao, which was then occupied by the Spanish. In 1634 the Dutch admiral Johannes van Walbeeck together with 200 soldiers set foot on the island and fought the 32 Spanish troops, which surrendered after three weeks, on 21 August 1634.
Van Walbeeck ordered the construction of a fort on the island. It was to be located at the mouth of the Sint Anna Bay. Dutch soldiers as well as slaves from Angola worked on the fort. It was also used as the headquarters of the DWIC from the outset. Conditions in the fort were poor however, due to lack of drinking water and food. Soldiers almost started a mutiny, which was quelled by a raise in pay and improved rations. In 1635 or 1636 the construction of the fort was completed. Most of the population then went to live in the fort, with the city of Willemstad eventually growing outside of it.
The fort was designed with three meter wide walls and five bastions, however only four were built. The fort had heavy weaponry, mainly located to the seaside.
In 1804 the fort was hit by a cannonball fired by British captain John Bligh, of HMS Theseus, who led a small squadron that captured the fort in February 1804. The ball is still embedded in the southwestern wall of the fort church.
On 8 June 1929 the fort was raided and captured by Venezuelan rebel Rafael Simón Urbina together with 250 others. They plundered weapons, ammunition and the treasury of the island. They also managed to capture the Governor of the island, Leonardus Albertus Fruytier, and hauled him off to Venezuela on the stolen American ship Maracaibo.
Following the raid the Dutch government decided to permanently station marines and ships on the island.
The fort is currently part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao. The offices of the cabinet and governor of Curaçao are located in the fort. There are also some government offices and a museum of the Protestant community located in the fort church.