Water Island, at the west end of St Thomas’ main harbour, is the smallest inhabited island and is now known as the fourth USVI. Its name comes from the once plentiful freshwater ponds, now salt ponds. The island was purchased from Denmark by the USA in 1944 to use as a military base during the Second World War. Fort Segarra was built as an underground fort and later the island was used to test weapons. It was transferred to the Department of the Interior from Defense in 1952. A year later a 40-year lease of the entire island was given to a developer for construction of a hotel and homes. The hotel closed after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and is now in ruins. The island’s ownership was turned over to the VI Government and private island homeowners in December 1996. Open-air buildings on the beach are available for public use. At weekends the beach is busy with local residents and charter-boat guests.
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