The General Archive and National Library of Puerto Rico is located in Puerta de Tierra, the neighborhood adjacent to Old San Juan. The historic building, which has had various uses over the years, was the last one built under the Spanish regime. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The construction of the building began in 1877 for the purpose of housing a civil hospital, but it was never used for that purpose. The building served as a provincial jail until the Spanish-American War. After the passage of Hurricane San Ciriaco (1899), it housed leprosy patients, who were later transferred to the Cabras Island Leper Colony in Toa Baja.
In 1905, the United States government sold the building in a public auction to the Porto Rican American Tobacco Co., which converted it to a cigar factory. Years later, Bacardi & Co. acquired the building and used it for its main offices. In 1959 the company moved its facilities to Cataño, and in 1960 the structure was obtained by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which took charge of renovating it. The building served as storage and later was converted into the first site of the School of Plastic Arts.
Since 1973, it has been the site of the General Archive and National Library of Puerto Rico. This government institution is responsible for preserving public documents of historical importance for the island and is, today, the largest repository of historic documents in Puerto Rico. The National Library of Puerto Rico is a research center for all areas of human knowledge, especially those related to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
The building has an E-shaped ground floor. The longest side is the main façade, and the central arm is the shortest of the arms. In the central arm is a large staircase and a chapel crowned with a cupola, both two stories tall. Between the arms are patios that open onto the galleries. The two-story building has a restrained and elegant design, appropriate to its civic use.
Three pavilions, one in the center and one at each end, extend from the front and define the main entrance and complete the façade. On both levels, there are simple pilasters that mark the windows that, in turn, are surrounded by arches. There is a portico front entrance and grooved sections of the walls in the entrance, and on the corners of the first floor are the only ornamentation. The only change to the original structure has been the addition of a building in the rear that has completely enclosed one of the patios.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Register of Historic Places, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.
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