Willemstad was founded by the Dutch conquest of the island of Curacao in 1634. At the spot where the Spaniards had simple stone houses the Dutch began to build a fort to strengthen the harbor. One of the first permanent buildings was Fort Amsterdam, which was to guard the entrance to the St. Anna Bay and where the rulers resided. Mid 17th century, the city increasingly became a center of the slave trade after the peace treaty between the Dutch and the Spanish. Around the early 18th century, the walled city of Willemstad, then counting more than 200 houses found that there was no place within the walls for more buildings. The first expansion took about half a mile east place, the suburb now known as the Pietermaai District.
Initially Pietermaai was only a very narrow strip of land between the sea and the Waaigat. After part of the Waaigat was drained, Pietermaai got space in width. Large residences were build on both sides of the strip. Only after the Punda wall was torn down in 1860 houses were also built between Punda and Pietermaai . The suburb then gave the character of entertainment district with theaters and restaurants .
Pietermaai has on the other hand always had a mixed population. Ship’s captains and ship owners settled there as long ago as the 18th century. Moreover civil servants, merchants, craftsmen and free Negroes or Mestizos (in Curaçao: people with discernible amounts of both European and African ancestry) lived there also. In the 20th century the neighborhood was popular as well. Elderly local residents can still remember how people used to like sitting on balconies or terraces in the late afternoon to watch the other inhabitants file past.
Due to different factors those city areas lost their importance during the sixties and seventies of the last century. Through mutual efforts from both the government as the private sector there has been a revival in Pietermaai over the last 15 years.