The main town is Charlestown, one of the best preserved old towns in the Caribbean. Situated on Gallows Bay and guarded by Fort Charles to the south and the long sweep of Pinney’s Beach to the north, it is a small town with a compact centre. At first sight it would be easy to be disappointed. However there are several interesting buildings dating from the 18th century and the excellent Museum of Nevis History.
D R Walwyn’s Plaza is dominated by the balconied Customs House built in 1837 on a much older site and housing the Customs and Agricultural Ministry. Immediately to the north is the post office. Opposite it on the other side of the square is the tourist office. Memorial Square is larger and more impressive than D R Walwyn’s Plaza, the War Memorial is in a small garden. Explore the courthouse and library. It was built in 1825 and used as the Nevis Government Headquarters but largely destroyed by fire in 1873. The curious little square tower was erected in 1909-10. It contains a clock which keeps accurate time with an elaborate pulley and chain system. Visit the library and you can see them together with the weights among the elaborate roof trusses. Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat 0900-1700. The courthouse is not open to the public, look in through the open windows.
Along Government Road is the well-preserved Jewish Cemetery dating back to 1679, it is locked although entrance is allowed. The key is just above the cemetery at Hunkins shop. At the small market a wide range of island produce, including avocados, ginger root, yams and sweet potatoes, is on sale but go early if you want to catch the bustle. Markets are held on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, best on Saturday. Market Street to the right houses the philatelic bureau. 0800-1600 Mon-Fri, air conditioned. The Cotton Ginnery was, until 1994, in use during the cotton picking season (February-July). In 1995 it was moved out to the New River Estate, Gingerland, where it is in a renovated building next to the sugar mill ruins there. As part of the Nevis Port upgrade, another Cotton Ginnery building now houses 10 gift shops and a restaurant. On Chapel Street the Wesleyan Holiness Manse built in 1812 is one of the oldest stone buildings surviving on the island while the Methodist Manse (next to the prominent Church) has the oldest wooden structure, the second floor being built in 1802.
The Museum of Nevis History at the Birthplace of Alexander Hamilton is next to the sea and set in an attractive garden which contains a representative collection of Nevis plants and trees. The original house was built around 1680 but destroyed in the 1840s probably by an earthquake. This attractive two storey house was rebuilt in 1983 and dedicated during the Islands’ Independence celebration in September of that year. The Nevis House of Assembly meets in the rooms upstairs (again restored after being damaged by Hurricane Hugo), while the museum occupies the ground floor. Alexander Hamilton, Nevis’ most famous son, was born in Charlestown on 11 January 1757. He lived on Nevis for only five years before leaving for St Croix with his family. About half of the display is given over to various memorabilia and pictures of his life. The Museum of Nevis History contains examples of Amerindian pottery, African culture imported by the slaves, cooking implements and recipes, a rum still, and a model of a Nevis lighter. There are also the ceremonial clothes of the Warden which were worn on the Queen’s birthday and Remembrance Day. A section is devoted to the conservation of reefs, conch and the rain forest. There is a small shop which sells local produce and some interesting books. All proceeds go to the upkeep of the museum. n T4695786, Mon-Fri 0900-1600, Sat 0900-1200, US$2.