Historic, Welcoming Philipsburg Courthouse, St. Maarten
It’s easy to come away from the Front Street area of Philipsburg without gaining much, if any, sense of Sint Maarten’s history. This is Ground Zero for the cruise ship hordes that descend upon the capital of the Dutch Side. You’ll find the narrow streets and modest beachfront here routinely choked with crowds bent on partying, shopping, and sunning. Here, though, as everywhere in the Caribbean, the uncommon can be found and enjoyed. Take the Philipsburg Courthouse, for instance…
Like the iconic Guavaberry Emporium a few blocks away, Philipsburg Courthouse sticks out among a sea of staid retail storefronts. Its allure undeniable for a history buff like me.
Multi-Purpose for The People
Commander Willem Henry Rink commissioned the iconic structure. Construction was completed in 1793, just 30 years after Philipsburg came into being.
Over the years, the historic building took on a myriad of different roles. Jail, fire and police station, post office, council room, weighing room…
Indeed, the courthouse of today has always served the people of Sint Maarten in one way or another.
Enduring Symbol of Welcome
Aside from a brief period in the 1990’s, Philipsburg Courthouse also always served as a warm point of welcome for visitors. It’s a sentiment embodied by the pineapple crowning the structure. The international symbol of welcome serves as a beacon welcoming all to Sint Maarten’s shores.
During the 90’s, though, a storm made off with the original pineapple.
Frank Gonsalves, an Australian master shipwright, produced the replacement. Installed in 1996, the new pineapple artfully restored the welcoming vibe.
Even if you don’t see the pineapple (or know of its symbolism), you’re likely to feel welcome and at peace in the shadow of the Philipsburg Courthouse. The quaint shaded courtyard that fronts the building provides a nice spot to sit and relax away from the bustling crowds.
Sweet sounds also emanate from the courthouse bell tower, adding to the peaceful atmosphere. Philipsburg Courthouse houses an impressive carillon with 25 bells. Its melodies further take you back to simpler times long forgotten amid these busy streets…
If You Go To Philipsburg Courthouse
Philipsburg Courthouse is located in the heart of Front Street, just north of the Captain Hodge Wharf. If you don’t see it when you arrive in town, ask anyone, or just follow the sounds of the bells.