A unique experience in a historical setting
In the early 1800s St. Thomas became a shipping center and distribution point for the West Indies.
Palm Passage was one of many warehouses constructed so that goods such as sugar, rum, and coal could be unloaded from ships in the harbor and stored quickly in nearby facilities. The shop doorways are the original stone archways that were big enough for horses and ox-drawn carts.
The Coaling Ladies gained the most recognition for doing the backbreaking work of moving coal from the warehouses back to the ships. They were a group of women who moved huge amounts of coal, often barefooted and using wicker baskets.
You can see that the foundation of Palm Passage is higher on the Main Street end than on the waterfront end. This allowed easier movement of goods in and out of the warehouses.
By the end of the 1800s, the development of steamships, the end of slavery, changing political conditions, and hurricane destruction changed St. Thomas’ standing as a major port. After 1885, St. Thomas’ prosperity waned. When donkey- and horse-drawn carts were replaced by automobiles, the space between the warehouses and the water was filled in to make the four-lane highway we call Waterfront.
By the late 1960s, the tourist trade became St. Thomas’ best hope for a comeback. At that time a second floor for offices was added to Palm Passage, for a total of 32,000 square feet. A multitude of small retail spaces were also added to Palm Passage and along Main Street to take advantage of the tourist trade. Through this process, Palm Passage retained its original stonework and architecture that you can see in the courtyard and in many of its shops.
Subsequent decades have brought increasing visitors to St. Thomas as it developed into a major destination with millions of visitors a year. Some of Palm Passage’s shops moved in near the beginning of the new millennium and have helped establish it as one of St. Thomas’ most eclectic groups of retail and dining establishments.