The Casa de España, located on Ponce de León Avenue, was built in 1934 and 1935 through an initiative by an organization of Spanish residents of the island who wanted to create a building that would serve as a center for civic, cultural and recreational activities for the Spanish community in Puerto Rico. The structure, located just outside Old San Juan, is distinguished by its Moorish influenced architecture.
In 1914, the Casa de España Association was founded in San Juan for the purpose of collecting funds and getting the Puerto Rico Legislature to grant some land for the construction of a Spanish social club. The association began meeting at the Casino Español in Old San Juan. It was not until 1925 that it returned to the idea of building a headquarters for the association, and a contest was held to come up with a design for Casa España. Architect Hidalgo y Alcalá del Olmo won the contest, but his design was discarded later and replaced with another. Construction never took place, however, due to problems with contractors and a lack of funding.
Finally in 1934, the new president-elect of the association, Miguel Such, convinced the Legislature to donate the land located between the Capitol and the Carnegie Library. The Casa de España and Casino Español began collecting the money needed to carry out the project, whose design was created by well- known Puerto Rican architect, Pedro Adolfo de Castro Besosa. The building was inaugurated in 1935.
The rectangular, two-story structure is built around a central patio. Its columns are made of reinforced concrete and artificial stone. Most of the walls are plaster and are decorated with ceramic tile. The roof of the galleries in the interior patio is flat, while the other areas are covered by a four-gable roof of blue and white glazed tiles, arranged in an irregular pattern. The doors and windows are wood, and most of them have fixed glass panels.
The main entrance is located on the southern corner of the façade. The eastern corner, along the entrance hall, and the main stairway, are covered with tiles with Moorish and geometric designs. On the first floor are the meeting rooms, the library, the administrative offices and the reception area. These spaces open onto the gallery and interior patio through arches. On the second floor are the social activities rooms, a restaurant, and a small game room. Paired Corinthian columns of elongated proportions, another Moorish influence, adorn the opening to the exterior galleries. This design is repeated in the main façade.
One of the most outstanding spaces in the building is the Salon of Mirrors. The ceiling of this multi-purpose room is made of many-colored wood and there are three crystal chandeliers that hang from the wooden rafters. The walls are adorned with wood panels with large mirrors in the center. Finally, in front of the building is a replica of the Fountain of the Lions from La Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain.
The Casa de España is still in use today as a center for activities. It was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Register of Historic Sites, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.
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