Fort Zeelandia

January 31st 2024 in Explore
Fort Zeelandia

Fort Zeelandia

Fort Zeelandia is a striking fortress in the heart of Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname. This impressive structure has undergone several transformations with a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Initially built by the French in 1640 as a wooden fort, it was later reinforced during the British colonial period and renamed Fort Willoughby. However, in 1667, the Dutch captured the fort and renamed it Fort Zeelandia, reflecting the Dutch colonial influence in Suriname. Today, Fort Zeelandia is a symbol of the country's colonial past and a popular tourist attraction.

In 1650, Major Anthony Rowse established Surinam, a small Dutch colony, on behalf of the governor of Barbados, Francis Willoughby. In 1651, the English reinforced the abandoned French fort near present-day Paramaribo, naming it Fort Willoughby. The fort was constructed to protect the colony against possible attacks.

In 1667, the Dutch Admiral Abraham Crijnssen took over Paramaribo from forces under Lieutenant-Governor William Byam in a short three-hour battle, as British munitions were exhausted. Crijnssen also recaptured the Essequibo-Pomeroon Colony and renamed the Surinamese Fort Zeelandia. However, it became obsolete as a military asset over the years, and in 1772, there were even plans to tear it down.

After Surinamese independence in 1975, Fort Zeelandia's dark history began. It was the location of the "December murders" of 1982 under the military government of D├ęsi Bouterse. The fort was used to hold and torture political prisoners during that time. The December murders marked a bleak period in Suriname's history, and the fort became a symbol of the country's struggle for democracy.

Today, the Surinamese Museum is located in Fort Zeelandia and has a vast ethnographic collection, including archaeology, visual arts, colonial furniture, textiles, and historical photos. The museum lets visitors learn more about Suriname's rich history and culture. The former commander's house is now the Nola Hatterman Art Academy, which provides art education to students.