Miraflores Magazine

Miraflores Magazine

The Miraflores Magazine, a storage space for gunpowder and explosives, is a military structure located on the former Miramar Naval Base (in the Miramar sector of San Juan) that dates to the late 18th century. It was part of the defense system for the islet of San Juan. It was also built as part of the Spanish crown’s objective of supporting the economy through the construction of fortifications.

In 1765, Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly visited the island under the orders of King Carlos III to determine the state of its defenses, as well as those of the rest of the Spanish Antilles. Among his recommendations were improvements to the system of fortifications in San Juan, including the construction of five magazines, of which Miraflores was one, that would serve as support for the other structures with artillery.

The magazine structure is rectangular, surrounded by a wall that is eight and a half feet tall with two opposing round guard houses that have three windows and a cupola. Originally, the exterior had seven transepts with buttresses. The building was topped by a barrel vault ceiling sustained by exterior arches that rested on eight buttresses on each side. It was built of bricks and a kind of mortar called argamasa and the walls were whitewashed.

The magazine served military purposes until the end of Spanish rule over Puerto Rico in 1898. From 1899 until the 1930s, it served as a quarantine center under the administration of the United States Public Health Service. Passengers from ships, as well as immigrants, were examined there and, if necessary, were isolated from the rest of the population.

Beginning in 1940, the building was used as a chapel for the Isla Grande Naval Base. The space between the wall and the magazine was covered with an inclined tile roof. The interior was divided into four areas: a large chapel, a sacristy, restrooms and a small chapel. Various elements were added to the structure, including a bell tower, replacing the chimney on the northeast corner; eighteen wooden doors along the sides of the building, for which openings were made in the vaulted ceiling; wooden panels on the lower part of the walls of the chapel; and four iron lamps in the main chapel. The additions to the roof and surrounding wall were done in reinforced concrete.

Beginning in 1971, after the closure of the Naval Base, ownership of the structure passed to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. During this era, it became the headquarters for the San Juan Ballet and the San Juan Children’s Choir. Later, the Department of Transportation and Public Works assumed control of the building.

The Miraflores Magazine has been on the United States Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places since 1984. Today, it is abandoned and the grounds are used for storing vehicles belonging to various government agencies.

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.

Argamasa – construction material, a kind of mortar made from a mix of lime, sand, sometimes mud, and water.
Whitewash – A covering or a plaster made with lime.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.

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