Having never attained a population greater than 5,600, Christiansted has always been small in size, but makes up for it in picturesqueness. Since its 1735 birth at the beginning of the Danish era in St. Croix, from 1733 to 1917, it moved from a humble beginning of wooden huts with thatched roofs to the grandeur of a building like the central part of Government House within less than 15 years. This confirms the rapid development of the economy that had been practically non-existent here during the years the island was owned by France. The former French village of Bassin where Christiansted is now had practically disappeared, and the island was abandoned.
The Danish West Indian and Guinea Company purchased St. Croix from France and made rapid progress in developing a sugar cane economy throughout the island, supported by slave labor. The chief merchant Johan Wilhelm Schopen built Government House center section as a residence for himself and his family; in 1771, 16 years after the Danish Crown had taken over the ownership of the island, it became the seat of the Danish West Indian government, and Christiansted was now the capital of the Danish West Indies, a title it held until 1871, when, after a long period of decline, St. Croix ceded the role to Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.
What differentiates Christiansted from all other towns in the smaller islands of the Caribbean is the use of Danish bricks and masonry in so many buildings. This has contributed to their survival, where wooden buildings often burned or rotted away. The bricks, brought here as ballast aboard the many vessels from Denmark calling here, were used in structures as large as Fort Christiansvaern, completed in 1749, the town's landmark from the sea and built as a defense against unwelcome visitors. Adjacent buildings in what is now the Christiansted National Historic Site, also of solid brick construction, include the Customs House, where duties were collected on merchandise leaving and coming that had already been weighed in the Scale House, in particular the ample supply of sugar and rum produced here at great profit to planters and the Danish West Indian Government. The courtyard of the storage facilities in the 1749 Company warehouse was also used as a site for slave auctions, and Lutheran church services were held from 1753 to 1830 in the Steeple building. All these structures were restored and became the Christiansted National Historic Site in 1952, managed by the U.S. National Park Service.
Many other of the town's historic buildings have been preserved, some as residences, other as commercial properties, many carrying informative plaques supplied by the town's Historic Preservation Commission. The old churches have enjoyed special attention, and offer a glimpse of the culture of former days. Despite hurricanes, and an earthquake and tsunami in 1867, the town has persevered. While it no longer holds as many inhabitants as before, recent additions such as the Boardwalk have brought modern-day vibrancy to this place of history.