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Casa Blanca Museum
September 18, 2002
Historic Viejo San Juan is host to numerous museums that narrate the tales of our ancestors. Casa Blanca Museum is one of the oldest and most important monuments in Puerto Rico. Since officially declared a monument in 1968, the museum has been open and shut numerous times. After enduring its latest restoration, Casa Blanca is once again open to the public.
Located at 1 Calle San Sebastián, the museum was the residence of descendants of famed Spanish explorer and Puerto Ricos first governor, Juan Ponce de León. After his death in 1521, his property was passed on to his only son Luis, who was a minor. García Troche, the husband of Ponce de Leóns eldest daughter Juana, assumed responsibility of the land and constructed a wooden house that soon after burned down.
In 1523, construction began of Ponce de Leóns home, which also served as the islands first stone fort house, located at a strategic point for monitoring the entrance of the city. The ancient monument was the initiation of the capital citys community life. The entrance of the two-story home is adorned with two stone lions and the familys coat of arms, which hangs proudly above the lintel.
The house is comprised of a foyer, study, two bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, oratorio, garden, orchard, and a special throne room intended for royal visits. Much of the furniture, such as the bureau and thrones of the throne room, are typical furnishings from the XVI and XVII centuries.
In 1779, the descendents of Ponce de León sold Casa Blanca to the Spanish government, which then served as a residence for the engineers who constructed and repaired fortresses. Throughout the XVIII and XIX centuries, the monument endured various repairs and expansions. When the United States invaded in 1898, all the properties of the Spanish military became possessions of the U.S. army, including Casa Blanca, which was used as a residence by the armys commander. With this last use, the monument went through further architectural modifications.
In 1967, the U.S. military vacated all historic buildings and returned them to the government of Puerto Rico. Soon after, Casa Blanca was declared a national monument and, in 1974, was opened as a museum.
Following its use as a residence for Gene Hackman during the filming of "Under Suspicion" in 1999, Casa Blanca was closed. Three years later, after a recent $60,000 overhaul, the museum was reopened. Due to deterioration, neglect, restorations, expansions, and alterations, Casa Blanca isnt the same dwelling that was once inhabited by the descendants of Juan Ponce de León. However, thanks to efforts by Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña and with the antique Spanish furniture that has been acquired, Casa Blanca provides quite an authentic feel of centuries past.
Casa Blanca Museum is at 1 Calle San Sebastián in Viejo San Juan. Its hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call (787) 725-1454.