Standing stoically against the sea, the massive stonewalls of the Waterfort have been guarding Curacao’s natural harbor for close to four centuries. Originally built in 1634 and standing a quarter of a mile around the mouth of the harbor, the fort was redesigned in 1826 to protect the town. A reinforced roof and turrets were added, and deep vaults were constructed to house munitions and supplies. But the original ambitious design was never completed due to the cost.
Willemstad’s ‘decent folk’ rejoiced when barracks were added to accommodate the colorful rough and tumble entourage of sailors, ex-privateers and indentured militia that roamed the streets in those days.
A brig was also built for those whose drunken lawlessness became too much to bear for the locals. The fort itself was never attacked during the ongoing skirmishes between the French, British and the Dutch in the 1800s, but it was once briefly occupied in 1929 by Venezuelan rebels. During World War II, the Waterfort sported anti-aircraft guns and housed allied forces sent to protect the refinery.
A steel chain fence was strung across the harbor to deter German submarines, remnants of which remain today. In 1988, funds were raised to restore the Waterfort Arches to its former glory. Now it plays host to an eclectic assortment of bistros, bars and dining establishments, where, like in times past, you can still hear the incessant lap of waves against the ancient stone.