Old San Juan
Walking Tour Part 3
|Places where Ponce de Leon was supposed to live and is now buried.
12. Casa Blanca: Built in 1521 as the home for Governor Ponce de Leon in gratitude for his achievements. However, he never personally occupied it. He was killed in Cuba before he could move in. Then, Casa Blanca was destroyed by a hurricane.
However, by 1523 his family was able to move in and make Casa Blanca the de Leon ancestral home for the next 250 years. After that, authorities decided that was gratitude enough, and the government turned the complex into the residence of Spanish military commanders.
American army commanders followed the tradition, living here between 1898 and 1966. Today, Casa Blanca is a museum of island life, with a host of artifacts from colonial days; open daily 9-12 and 1-4; 787/724-4102.
13. Plazuela de la Rogativa: This statue of a bishop followed by 3 women holding torches refers to the 1797 British siege of Old San Juan. As legend goes, one night the British had second thoughts about attacking because they saw many torches moving along the wall. The British believed San Juan was being reinforced.
Instead, it was a religious procession (rogativa) of women carrying torches and singing as they followed their bishop. The striking monument was erected in 1971 to mark the 450th anniversary of the event.
14. Children's Museum (Museo del Nino): Three floors of displays, many of them hands-on, including a mock dentist's office and a village of playhouses. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 9 to 3:30; until 5 on Friday. Weekends, the hours are 12:30 to 5.
15. El Convento: Built in 1651, this was the New World 's first Carmelite convent. Later it became a dance hall and Puerto Rico 's most famous hotel. It was completely refurbished in 1997 at a cost of $275,000 per room. The first two floors, with restaurants and art galleries, are open to the public.
16. San Juan Cathedral: Begun in 1521 as a thatch-roofed structure, this magnificent Spanish colonial church is topped with three red and white cupolas. It is a rare and authentic example of medieval architecture in the Americas . The body of Ponce de Leon was moved from San Jose Church to a marble tomb here in 1913. Restoration of the entire church was completed in 1977.