Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Havana)

             I had been trying to enter this building for years but it seemed that every time I went by with that purpose it was either closed that day, closed for the day or outright closed for renovations. Finally, on this particular occasion it was not only open but I had plenty of time to walk around and take pictures. If my memory serves me correctly, there are 3 different entrance fees. One to just walk around the ground floor (3cuc), a second to enter the various rooms and another to take photographs....less than $10 in all. I didn't have time to take the guided tour which would have cost a little more but was well occupied for close to an hour just the same. The building itself is a massive structure with a lot rooms, most of which are filled with some pretty amazing artifacts relating to the house, it's inhabitants and/or the City or Country. Many of the rooms are preserved with their original Colonial decoration and are testament to the decadence of the Spaniards at the time.
              The building, located on the eastern side of the Plaza de Armas, is the former residence of the Governor's of Havana. It now houses the 'Museum of the City of Havana'. The construction of the building began in 1776 and was complete in 1792. Most of the construction material such as; brick, marble and wrought-iron was imported from; Malaga, Genoa & Bilboa, to ensure good quality. The building originally housed the governor's residence and until 1834, a prison, as well as being used as the meeting place for the city council. The last of the Colonial governors left the palace in 1898, after Cuban Independence. US military governors used the building between 1899 to 1902 and was the presidential palace of the Cuban Republic from 1902 until 1920. In 1968, after once again becoming the offices of the city council for some time, the palace became the City Museum.
              This thick walled, square building that has been built in the Cuban Baroque style has not been changed much since it's construction. The front of the building has an arcade with arches and local limestone has been used for the facade which you can see from all the fossils embedded into the stone. The small windows are all fronted by balconies on the facade as well as on the floor above with the much larger windows. But the most beautiful feature in my opinion is the huge open courtyard, commonplace for houses of this period. As I stated previously, the rooms are filled with many interesting artefacts, there's even a 19th-century fire engine manufactured in London on display on the ground floor right next to several carriages of the period. The top floor contains the rooms of the governor's residence which have been preserved with much of the original furniture and decoration. Also upstairs, the Hall of Heroic Cuba which contains many objects and paintings from the different wars of independence as well as many of the flags important at that time. The building is also home to the 'Office of the City Historian' which is headed by Eusebio Leal and is responsible for the renovation work in Old Havana. The statue in the middle of the courtyard is that of Cristóbal Colón and was added in 1862. The Giraldilla, a weathervane which is the Symbol of Havana, is also housed in this building. It was originally located on the tower of the nearby Castillo de la Real Fuerza but because of high winds due to hurricanes, it was replaced by a copy with the original being put on display in the Museum.
            There is much more to this building than meets the eye. I read that there are 40 different rooms containing memories of an extinct era and I have to say if there weren't 40, it was pretty close. In my opinion the largest and most complete of all the city's museums. This spot is definitely worth a visit but go when you have some time to spare because there's way too much to see....the Photos don't do the place justice.

Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales
Plaza de Armas
e/Calle Obispo y Calle O'Reilly

Front of the building facing Plaza de Armas and Havana Bay

Vendors all around the Plaza and in front of the building

Front Door

Courtyard with the statue of Christopher Columbus

Jose Marti

Cuban Flag 1851

Throne Room

Maximo Gomez Baez

19th-century fire engine manufactured in London

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