Approximately 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the mouth of the mighty Essequibo River is Fort Island. On this island are the second and third oldest built historic structures in Guyana (completed by the Dutch administration in 1744 to protect it interest in the then colony). Fort Zeelandia and the Court of Policy. During the period of Dutch occupation, the Fort and the Court of Policy were part of a large settlement that extended along the northeastern section of the island. This community was established after the settlement at Kyk-Over-Al was abandoned in 1716. Fort Island was the seat of the Dutch administration in the colony of Essequibo for over 40 years before the development of Demerara circa 1745. Fort Zeelandia was completed in 1744. It was built to protect the interests of the Dutch West India Company from European rivals such as the English and the French who frequented the eastern coast of South America in search of the spoils of war. Also, it was meant to serve as a stronghold against rebellious slaves. This brick fort, which replaced a wooden structure, was constructed following a design by the then Secretary of the Colony of Essequibo, Laurens Storm van Gravesande, to conserve funds. Gravesande was Essequibo’s longest-serving Dutch Commander, serving from 1738 – 1750. He was subsequently the Director -General for Essequibo and Demerara from 1750-1772. The structure is said to have been designed by the Dutch following the lozenge-shaped forts which the Dutch constructed along the coast of West Africa during the 18th century. Within the compound of the Fort are the Armory, used for the storage of ammunition and several cannons reminiscent of the belligerent history of the site.
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