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Cap-Haitian History

Cap-Haitien previously known as Cap‑Francais or Cap‑Henri

Cap-Haitien previously known as Cap‑Francais or Cap‑Henri

Here is a picture of Cap-Haïtien in the 1700. Cap-Haïtien was previously known as Cap'Français or Cap'Henri. In its earlier times, this present commune of about 190,000 people on the north coast of Haiti and the capital of the Department of Nord was also known as the 'Paris of the Caribbean" for its wealth of French colonial architecture, which has been well preserved. The city is situated on the coast of the Cap-Haïtien Bay, on the Atlantic Ocean, about 260 km north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. The city was founded in 1670 on a Taino village called 'Gaurico'. Soon after the French took over the western half of the island from Spain, in 1711, the French made this city their colonial capital of Haiti (then Saint-Dominique) until 1770 when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince.

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Sans-Souci Palace of King Henri Christophe

Sans-Souci Palace of King Henri Christophe

Here is a picture of the majestic Sans-Souci Palace of King Henri Christophe in Milot.

One of Haiti's most fascinating ruins is the home of King Henri Christophe called Sans-Souci Palace. Iit took its name from one of Haiti's leaders of the revolution, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Sans Souci. Accessed by way of Cap-Haitien, the palace is off the beaten path most traveled by many tourists. Because of this almost-remoteness, it has remained a well-preserved relic of days gone by. It is believed that its beautiful architecture was inspired by the great palace in Potsdam of the Prussian emperor Frederick the Great.

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American Marines In 1915 defending the entrance gate in Cap-Haitian

American Marines In 1915 defending the entrance gate in Cap-Haitian

Here is a picture of American Marines defending the entrance gate in Cap-Haitian in 1915

As a result, in 1915, the pro-US Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam seized power and ordered a massacre of 167 political prisoners, but he was lynched by an angry mob into the French Embassy. In July 28, 1915, the U.S President Wilson ordered an invasion. The 330 marines stormed the shores of Port-au-Prince and soon set up an interim government. Although with the U.S occupation, peace and order was restored in Haiti, the Haitians were never happy with the Americans. The poor were unhappy with their assigned road building works, patriotic middle class resented the foreigners and the elite upper class was denied of the access to the government spending that had previously made them rich.

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Jose Marti Square in Cap-Haitian

Jose Marti Square in Cap-Haitian

In January, Michel Martelly placed a wreath at the base of a monument to Jose Marti, who gained freedom for Cuba in the 1900s.

Martelly spoke of the alliance between Cuba and Haiti, saying Marti began ". . . the genesis of cooperation between Haiti and Cuba . . . that still develops for the benefit of Haiti and Cuban citizens."

In 1895, Marti inhabited a house in Cap Haitien, which has revered his memory with a marble plaque, marking the historical time he spent there.

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Fort Picolet, built to protect French investment from Spain and England

Fort Picolet, built to protect French investment from Spain and England

The well preserved, attributable mainly to neglect, ruins of Fort Picolet gives a great glimpse into the past of Haiti under French rule. No doubt built to protect the French investment from rivals such as Spain and England, the fort had very few points of access and was littered with many great stone steps, some winding steeply and quite precariously up the rocky coastline. Today, many of these stairs and high walls remain, more or less, intact. Even a cistern for catching rain is still very well preserved.

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Fort Picolet, built over two hundred years ago

Fort Picolet, built over two hundred years ago

The cannons at Fort Picolet, built well over two hundred years ago, were never fired. Now rusted and mostly unseated from their mounts, they wait until the day a restoration project may be deemed necessary to salvage the heritage of the old Fort in the cliffs west of Cap Haitien. If such a project were to be undertaken, the work would not need to be too daunting, as, because of the stories of mystical ceremonies centered on Haitian vodou arts abound, not many people visit the site, leaving it in still-good shape.

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Fort Picolet built to protect Cap-Haitian

Fort Picolet built to protect Cap-Haitian

Fort Picolet, like most other forts build to protect the settlements behind it, was the result of the importance of Cap Haitien to the French during their rule over Haiti. The one time capital of Haiti needed dependable fortification, so the fort was built on the side of a mountain accessible by a nearby beach. Beside the fort is a river for fresh water and the nearby harbor provided further accessibility. The fort fell into ruin after the series of revolts that liberated Haiti from French rule.

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Union Club, a social club in Cap Haitien - 1907

Union Club, a social club in Cap Haitien - 1907

Here is a picture of Union Club which was a social club in Cap Haitian on the beginning of 1900s

The 1800's were the golden age for Cap Haitian, then called Le Cap, or, The Cape. The town was legendary in the French Empire and was viewed as the richest colony under the French cap. The wealth of the city had much to do with the one hundred thousand coffee trees being harvested there. The Cap Haitian of the present, by comparison, is a struggling, over-populated city. Luckily untouched by the 2010 earthquake, the city has a chance to retain some of its former glory through tourism and its ready-made appeal to the industry.

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Douane - Cap-Haitien - 1928

Douane - Cap-Haitien - 1928

Here is a picture of Cap-Haitian in 1928.

Cap Haitian, formerly known by other names such as, Cap Francais and Cap Christophe was given its present name after the Haitian fight for independence from the French. When the country was renamed Haiti, from the Arawak word that meant 'mountainous land', a sentiment Columbus himself had observed when he first landed, calling the land 'very high', the tribute extended to Cap-Haitian, witness to many of the decisive moves that served to win the slaves their freedom and independence.

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The city of Cap-Haitian in 1881

The city of Cap-Haitian in 1881

Cap Haitian's introduction to history was in December of 1492, when, upon arriving on Haiti's north coast, Christopher Columbus and his flagship, the Santa Maria, collided with the coral reef. The damage to the vessel was extensive enough to sink the legendary ship, and its remains are said to still lie beneath the sea today in nearby Limonade Pass. Columbus and his fellow travelers would create a settlement in Cap Haitian before moving on to Santo Domingo in the present-day Dominican Republic.

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