History and museums, Natural sights
Hassel Island (also sometimes Hassell Island) is a small island of the U.S. Virgin Islands, a United States territory located in the Caribbean Sea. Hassel Island lies in the Charlotte Amalie harbor just south of Saint Thomas and east of Water Island.
The roughly 136-acre (550,000 m2) island was once a peninsula of Saint Thomas, known as Orkanhullet (Hurricane Hole). Hassel Island was separated by the Danish government in 1860, and named for the Hassel family who owned much of the estate.
Careening Cove, a bay on Hassel Island, appears on maps as early as 1687.
The Danish used Hassel Island's strategic location to defend the busy Charlotte Amalie harbor in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The British occupied Hassel Island during the Napoleonic Wars. The ruins of several British buildings remain on Hassel Island, including Fort Willoughby, which was built on the site of the older Prince Frederik's Battery (Fort Frederik), Fort Shipley (Shipley's Battery), and Cowell's Battery. All three were constructed around 1802.
In the 1840s, the St. Thomas Marine Railway Company constructed the St. Thomas Marine Railway Slip. Later renamed the Creque Marine Railway, it is one of the earliest steam-powered marine railways in the western hemisphere and perhaps the oldest surviving example of such a railway. The Hamburg-based Boulton Company built the railway's steam engine.
In the 1860s, the Danish government dug a channel which separated Hassel Island from Saint Thomas and improved the circulation of the Charlotte Amalie harbor.
The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company operated its West Indies hub on Hassel Island from about 1850 until the 1870s.
In 1871, the Hamburg America Line set up a coaling station on Hassel Island.
There was also a leprosarium on the island.
The channel was widened by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1919, shortly after the United States purchased the Danish West Indies. The United States Navy also established a naval station on the island, which was in operation during World War I and World War II.
In the middle of the 20th century, most of Hassel Island was owned by the prominent local Paiewonsky family. The Royal Mail Inn, a small hotel located on Hassel Island, may have been the hotel immortalized in Herman Wouk's novel Don't Stop the Carnival.
The Creque Marine Railway and a signal station at Cowell's Battery were in operation until the 1960s and 1970s respectively.
In 1978, the Virgin Islands National Park purchased most of the island from the Paiewonsky family. The rest of the island is divided between the territorial government and a few private residences.
Since around 2004, the Saint Thomas and Hassel Island Preservation Trust, the Virgin Islands National Park, the Saint Thomas Historical Trust and other organizations have been working to restore and preserve the island's historic sites. There are limited guided kayaking and hiking tours of the island.
Hassel Island is also the location for The Real World: St. Thomas, |the twenty-seventh season of the reality show The Real World.