Philipsburg, the Dutch Capital
When the first Dutch colonists arrived in 1631, they built a village on a sand bar separating Great Bay from a large salt pond called Grand Etang. It was first built in the western part at the foot of Fort Amsterdam, and was extended little by little to the east. John Philips, a Scottish colonel, developed the settlement between 1735 and 1746. Sugar factories began to appear on the island, which sparked considerable economic growth along with an influx of immigrants. Soon it became necessary to build administrative infrastructure. John Philips was then named commander of the island and encouraged modernization of sugar cane, coffee, and cotton harvesting. The sheltered bay facing the city allowed for the export of farmed goods and salt. The name Philipsburg was first seen in 1738, even though Philips wasn’t the founder. The city has since been extended over the entire sand bar, and welcomes over a million cruise passengers each year.
Shopping in Philipsburg
Front Street, Philipsburg’s main road, is lined with boutiques selling jewelry and souvenirs. You’ll find restaurants and bars along the waterfront promenade where visitors can stroll along the boardwalk, shop, or enjoy a drink on one of the many terraces. Philipsburg is the duty-free capital, and shops on Front Street and Back Street, Philipsburg’s two main arteries, offer many tax-free products: jewelry, perfume, electronics, and clothing.
The Courthouse, which has functioned as the tribunal for successive governors, is located on Front Street and is one of the most famous monuments on the Dutch side of the island. Though it has been destroyed by hurricanes, it is restored every time. The government of St. Maarten owns this building and has inscribed it on the list of major historical monuments.
St. Maarten Museum
Right in the middle of Philipsburg, on Front Street, the St. Maarten Museum makes for a historical stop retracing notable time periods, from the Arawaks until today. The museum showcases local artisanal exhibitions, historical photos, and various objects from the past.