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Charlestown was first built in the 1600's, but the attractive town you see now, with its many historic stone buildings, is primarily typical of Caribbean colonial 1800's architecture. The town is laid out in a very old-style Caribbean way, with no centralized shopping centres or malls. Many of the houses along the back streets still have the traditional decorative fret-cut woodwork known as "Gingerbread Trim".
Most of the major buildings are made of volcanic stone, locally produced and cut. The older buildings have massive foundations and walls, often over four feet thick in two layers with an interior space that is rubble-filled. Many of the more modern buildings maintain the traditional style, but have thinner walls because of newer building techniques.
A lot of older buildings have a stone first floor and a wood second floor, also known quaintly as a "skirt and blouse" design. This was so that during an earthquake the second floor would not collapse in, destroying the interior.
"Must sees" from an architectural standpoint include the Old Courthouse/Library, the Nevis Tourism Authority Building, and the Longstone Bar Building. There is also the Alexander Hamilton birthplace. First built in about 1680, damaged by an earthquake in 1840, and restored in 1983, the first floor of this simple but attractive stone building houses the Museum of Nevis History, and the second floor serves as the Nevis House of Assembly.
The Charlestown Courthouse (downstairs) and Public Library (upstairs), built in 1825: note the square design, wood-shingled roof, and shuttered windows. The clock tower is a more recent addition.