Elmina Castle was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 as São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine) Castle, also known simply as Mina or Feitoria da Mina) in present-day Elmina, Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast). It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch seized the fort from the Portuguese in 1637, and took over all the Portuguese Gold Coast in 1642. The slave trade continued under the Dutch until 1814; in 1872, the Dutch Gold Coast, including the fort, became a possession of the British Empire.
Britain granted the Gold Coast its independence in 1957, and control of the castle was transferred to the nation formed out of the colony, present-day Ghana. Today Elmina Castle is a popular historical site, and was a major filming location for Werner Herzog’s 1987 drama film Cobra Verde. The castle is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The castle is extensively restored by the Ghanaian government in the 1990s. Renovation of the castle continues.Today, Elmina’s economy is sustained by tourism and fishing. Elmina Castle is preserved as a Ghanaian national museum and the monument was designated as a World Heritage Monument under UNESCO in 1979. It is a place of pilgrimage for many African Americans seeking to connect with their long lost heritage[citation requested] The bridge leading into the castle is one of the highest priority tasks in the project. As of August 2006, the bridge renovation has been completed and construction on the upper terraces continues.