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History of Architecture in Havana (page 2 of 2)

The construction of the Isabel II public walk, (now known as the Prado), had begun in 1772 and it soon became a favorite gathering place. Gradually enhanced over the years it was rennovated in the 19th and 20th centuries with sculptures and vegetation.

According to the significance of this area as the new city center, many important buildings were built in the twenties and thirties.

Paseo del Prado in Havana
Paseo del Prado in Havana

The outstanding Neoclassic Revival of the Capitol, the Eclectic Presidential Palace, the amazing Art Deco of the Bacardí Office building, are magnificent architectural exponents of Havana's landmarks.

After the establishment of the Republic at the beginning of the 20th century trading and harbor activities increased. Due to the lack of enough spaces for storage, the ground floors of many former mansions were turned into warehouse facilities. The Old Town was deteriorated while housing was largely replaced by services. A variety of shops then crowded Old Havana´s narrow streets.

In the twenties the financial and banking center of the City, a sort of "Little Wall Street", was fully consolidated. Elegant buildings for foreign and national banks were then erected . Among them, the National Bank on Obispo and Cuba Streets, the Gelats Bank, the Trust Company, Chase Manhattan and others. The city continued its expansion westwards and farther from the Old Quarter. Only the commercial and administrative areas were able to resist the increasing decline of this valuable urban sector.

Today the so called Historic Center of Havana comprises the area of the original quarter enclosed by the city walls as well as the 19th century expansion on the Prado. This area represents 214 hectares, 4,000 buildings (900 of which are landmarks of a high value). Though currently, the overall condition of Old Havana's buildings is alarming, this historic sector has retained its integrity and authenticity in a large extent.

In 1982, UNESCO declared Old Havana and its fortifications as World Heritage Sites recognizing not only their outstanding values, but also their legal protection and the ongoing rehabilitation programs already undertaken at that moment. From 1981 to 1990 major restoration works had been carried out on different historic squares, streets and fortresses.

After the difficult period, which followed the collapse of the Socialist field with which Cuba had concentrated most of its trade, most restoration works were paralyzed. But in 1993 Cuban government confirmed its commitment to preserving the national heritage by granting, special powers to the Office of the City's Historian in order to achieve a sustainable management of the Old Quarter.

Craft market in front of Havana Cathedral

Since then, the Office has been able, for instance, to administrate tourism facilities, and get taxes from the entities in the territory, thus raising funds to invest on preservation. Not only attractive museums, charming historic hotels, restaurants and shops have been installed or refurbished, but also social facilities as a maternity clinic, a center for disabled children, and elementary schools.

Craft market in front of
Cathedral of Havana

Popular housing poses a tremendous challenge that is being faced and has still to find proper ways for broader solutions.

Also check on Cuban Architecture
  History of Cuban Architecture
  History of Architecture in Havana
  Interesting Places

                  <<back to Cuban Architecture main page


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