The establishment of the fortress Fort Zeelandia on the banks of the Surinam river marks the beginning of the city of Paramaribo

In papers dating from 1667 five bastions are mentioned with curtains (mil: the part of a wall or rampart connecting two bastions, towers etc.). These were reinforced with palisades, that were not high enough as yet, except for the parts facing the river. Clearly the fortress was not yet considered to be completed.
In 1682 Suriname was conquered by Abraham Crijnssen for the Zeeland province of the Netherlands and sold to the West-Indian Company. The WIC sold a third of its shares to the city of Amsterdam and mr. Cornelis van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck a year later.

Fort Zeelandia

An inventory in 1694 mentions a fausse braye (a low parapet against the walls from where a low aimed fire can be shot), a moat at the landside of the walls, which could be filled but with rainwater and thus often laid dry, an earthen wall against a second moat that stood dry during low tide, and in between the moats an area on which stood among others a bakery and a carpenter’s shed. In 1710 the inner moat had all but vanished except for two mud pools.

Fort Zeelandia3

Even though Cassard’s attack on the plantations in 1712 questioned the value of the fortress, a plan was made in 1715 to reinforce Zeelandia. But when Fort New Amsterdam was built in 1747 the fortress definitely lost its meaning as a defencework. Bastions 1 and 5 on the landside were demolished in 1781, ten years later bastion 4 followed suit. The materials were used to protect the riverbanks; from the very start these were prone to erosion by the currents. The emphasis of the area now turned to the function of a garrison with barracks and storagebuildings. From these times date the reconstruction of the buildings 1, 3 and 4 in stone. Part of the outer moat was filled up; the new victuals storage (Building 1790) was built on top of the filled moat. A new watch-house was constructed, with a tower which for the next 50 years was the landmark of the area. The function of prison was also worked on by improving the cells, by e.g. replacing the stone floors by wood.

Officers House

Since 1838 the stone fortification mainly served as a prison. Around the turn of the century (1900) Officer’s houses were build next to the Fort and finally the facilities for water were improved: storage basins for rainwater were constructed (but no wells being sunk) and draining was placed. A major complaint that remained was the lack of sufficient segregation between the facilities for officers and privates.

Fort Zeelandia1

In 1962 the government decided upon a thorough restoration, after which the buildings would mainly get the function of a museum. The prison was moved to Santa Boma. In 1968 renovation was started and completed in 1972. The stone fortification was painstakingly renovated in the course of which old constructions were uncovered. The bastions 2, 3 and 4 were restored and two small buildings on bastion 2 demolished. The buildings in the courtyard were worked on extensively. “Building 1970” on the outer yard was also renovated in order to house some ministries.

Fort Zeelandia4


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