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The Colonial City of Santo Domingo has a particular architectural flair: the rather diverse realities of yesteryear —from the first Spanish viceroyal high court in the Americas and later becoming the capital of a French-owned island to our national independence in 1844— have left their mark on its 500-year-old features.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to its historical manors, the rich collective heritage that once saw our forebearers going about their daily lives. INICIA, through Visanto Properties, has put together a team of historians, archeologists and architects committed to the restoration of its residential portfolio in the Colonial Zone. These projects, compiled in Manor Houses of the Oldest City in America by architect Juan Batlle and photographer Víctor Siladi, are an exemplary showcase of the type of interventions worthy of a historical landmark that fuels our national pride.

THE MANORS

Mercedes 57 House of the Vessels

This small house, one of the first built by the Spaniards in the Americas, belonged to the mariner Alonso Pérez Roldán —the captain of one of the 17 vessels that Christopher Columbus brought along on his second trip to the continent. It still stands today, thanks to it thick pisé walls and brick masonry, although it became dilapidated in recent years and thus required a thorough restoration to recover its integrity and usefulness.

Mercedes 57 Casa de los Barcos

Meriño 355 The Weber House

Located in the city’s first outlying area, the borough of Santa Bárbara, this early-16th century house might have had a previous industrial life: it’s set within short distance of the quarries that supplied the stones for the first colonial buildings, and it’s located right next to a ravine. Once it was acquired by the Weber family, it changed hands throughout three generations: metalsmith Juan had a silversmith shop there, while poet and painter Delia turned it into a bookstore.

Meriño 355 Casa Weber

Arzobispo Meriño 464 The General’s Manor

Around the late 19th century, General Abelardo Nanita used his close ties to the City Council to propose major actions for then-progressive urban improvements; the house still honors his initiatives by bearing his name. After a thorough restoration process in 2010, the General’s Manor now houses Fundación Imagen 83, a cultural center devoted to photography, painting, installations and theater plays.

Arzobispo Meriño 464 Casa del General

Arzobispo Nouel 1 The Poet’s Manor

Near the turn of the 20th century, the remarkable educator and national poetess Salomé Ureña spent the last four years of her life in a house that bore witness to 300 years of structural changes. There were the thick walls that once formed a two-story home, with private family areas on the upper floor and the service quarters below; there were also some splendid three-pointed arches so close to collapsing they had to be boarded up. Today, the most striking elements of each era coexist in harmony.

Arzobispo Nouel 3 The Painter’s Manor

Alejandro Bonilla painted the first portraits of Juan Pablo Duarte, which later became the founding father’s official image, in this 16th-century house. Its first iteration featured thick walls, a two-pointed arcade that originally gave way to the patio and later to an adjacent space; an 18th-century addition included a stable and courtyard balconies, and a 19th-century intervention endowed it with fine carpentry in its doors and shutters, featuring Victorian-style Anglo-Antillean details.

Arzobispo Nouel 5 The De La Concha Residence

Originally, this 16th-century residence had but one floor; it was later modified so heavily that little remained of its original structure —for example, the main doorway that lead to Hostos street was replaced by doors on both sides, which enabled the property for commercial use. In the 19th century it belonged to the De La Concha family, which bore republican activists Jacinto, Tomás and Wenceslao. The house later belonged to Wenceslao Figuereo, the nation’s vice president under Ulises Heureaux.

Arzobispo Nouel 5 Casa de la Familia De La Concha

Padre Billini 252 Casa del Árbol Manor

Up until the 1822 Haitian Invasion, when the Dominican order left the island, this property belonged to the Regina Angelorum Convent. After the Annexation to Spain in 1865, the abandoned structures were turned into residential spaces. One of the dwellers, in the last third of the 19th century, was master builder Martín Febrillet —who paved the Cathedral with marble and the calle de las Atarazanas with cobblestones. Today, the property belongs to Casas del XVI, a high-end hotel network.

Padre Billini 252 Casa del Árbol

Padre Billini 210 The Couturier’s Atelier

Apart from Pedro Tomás Garrido, one of the activists present during the declaration of Independence at the Puerta del Conde, the property also hosted another celebrated Dominican: until his recent death, it was the atelier and occasional residence of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. Today it belongs to the Casas del XVI high-end hotel network —quite the path for a space that started out as the orchard and service area for the former convent of Santo Domingo.

19 de Marzo 115 Casa de los Mapas Manor

Back in the 16th century, the land where this house stands belonged to the Dominican Monastery and the former University of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the early 19th century it was neither used nor attended, until it received some reinforced concrete upgrades in 1932. Today it belongs to the Casas del XVI hotel network, with a cartographically themed décor, including several reproductions of historical maps of the island and the city of Santo Domingo.

19 de Marzo 115 Casa de los Mapas

Isabel la Católica 158 Casa Vicini

The headquarters of Juan Bautista Vicini’s companies stood on house 158 of the Isabel la Católica street, a prime spot for commercial purposes: during colonial times, it was called calle del Comercio (Commerce street), as its many warehouses and import-export companies benefited from its vicinity to the port. Vicini later needed more space for his offices and operations, so houses 154, 156 and 160 were added to the original building. In total, Casa Vicini hosted the family’s business for four generations.

Isabel la Católica 158 Casa Vicini

Mercedes 208 The Peynado Residence

According to a 1910 project by architect Andrés Gómez Pintado, this colonial residence was modified with overlapping façades and reinforced concrete ceilings and roofs, as well as some Art Nouveau elements for the balconies. The dwelling hosted the offices of lawyer and diplomat Francisco J. Peynado. It was declared the most beautiful house in the city after Pintado’s refurbishment, and it was recently registered in DOCOMOMO’s list of notable 20th-century buildings.

Mercedes 208 Casa Peynado

Arzobispo Nouel 110 The Egan-Reid Residence

In the mid-19th century this property was made up of two connected houses: one belonged to María Dolores Sterling and the other to Tomás de Portes. In 1980, far from its former glory, the entire dwelling was acquired by architect William J. Reid and his son and daughter, Carlos and Patricia Reid Baquero. Today it’s inhabited by Patricia and her husband Kevin Egan, who have turned it into a stunning complex full of beautiful arcades, vaulted ceilings and several tropical gardens.

Arzobispo Nouel 110 Residencia Egan-Reid

José Reyes 6 The Mudéjar Manor

In the early 20th century, the Lebrón Morales family of merchants imported all manner of construction supplies and finishes. Given this natural advantage, they fulfilled a personal wish of recreating the palaces of Andalusia’s La Alhambra in Santo Domingo. Since the mid-1980s, after a restoration directed by architects Benjamín Paiewonsky and César Ivan Ferris, the residence has been home to the city’s Porcelain Museum.

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THE TEAM

José Batlle

Restoration architect

Víctor Siladi

Photographer and designer

Jimmy González

Editorial designer

Kutty Reyes

Photo editor

Wagner Almonte

Production assistant

Ramón Valerio

Production assistant

Lia Victoria Siladi

Production assistant

Marie Benzo

Translator

Emilia Pereyra

Copy editor