The History of Hotel Santa Isabel
Hotel Santa Isabel was built at the beginning of the XVII century, in a privileged land parcel belonging to the Square of the Village of San Cristobal de la Habana. Later on, it was named Plaza de Armas, in whose surroundings was founded the first aristocratic neighborhood of Havana.
The building belonged to a very wealthy man, Rafael Perez del Prado that would bequeath its property to his widow Lorenza Carvajal. In 1617, she married the Lieutenant Governor of the Island Don Ruy Gomez del Toro, both inhabited the place. The Mayor of the Morro Fortress Jeronimo of Quero also lived there.
In the 18th century, the place was bought by the Captain of Frigate and Manufacturer of His Majesty's Ships Don Juan of Acosta in 1737.
In 1784, the Countess of San Juan de Jaruco also bought the building. She carried out some reformations such as long halls similar to those of Palacio del Segundo Cabo and Palacio de los Capitanes, both located around the Plaza de Armas. It was reconstructed again in 1794 by Dr. J. Francisco Martinez de Campos and Gonzalez del Alamo.
Years later, his brother Don Nicolas Froilan del Rosario Martinez de Campos and Gonzalez del Alamo owned the building, in 1824, he was named Count of Santovenia. Don Nicolas also carried out several transformations in the house, placing large iron rails with his name initials in the center. The corners were built following the style of the French carpentry similar to those of the house of the Count of San Juan de Jaruco erected in 1737.
On January 3, 1832, Don Nicolas named his nephew Dr. Don Jose Maria Martinez de Campos y De la Vega his successor and unique universal heir, owner of all his properties including the name of Count of Santovenia and Viscount of Campos house; in October 14-17 1833 the palace welcomed dozens of guests for the swearing of the Royal Princess Maria Isabel Luisa de Borbon who years later occupied the throne of Spain as Isabel II.
In 1865, the second Count of Santovenia passed away, Jose Maria Martinez de Campos y Martin inherited this title, two years later, in 1867 he travelled to Europe with his family, settling his residence there.
In September 1867, a North American Colonel, Luis Lay rented the palace to its owners and transformed the building into the Hotel Santa Isabel. This fact was published in 1868 by "The Stronger in the Tropics" a New York paper from American News Company. The hotel was the finest one by that time.
It had a privileged location in the Plaza de Armas with bathrooms in its rooms, waitresses' service, wide and ventilated rooms, besides the exquisite food and luxury of the installation, with a lovely view to the sea.
After 20 years, it was settled in the top floor the "Lonja de Viveres de la Habana", a commercial private society and from then on the building was headquarters of meetings of wealthy merchants.
In 1943, the place was remodelled again respecting its original characteristics, adapting the interior rooms for offices while the ground floor was used as a warehouse.
Then it was a property of EFE S.A real estate, dissolved in 1953. Afterwards, the building had different uses such as multiple family housing with the deterioration that this function supposes.
In 1980, the deterioration of the building kept intact during some time, in the first floor was settled "El Meson de la Flota", a very popular tavern with an interesting epoch reconstruction the commercial installation disappeared and the house continued being a citadel. In a very deteriorated condition.
The place was rescued by the specialists from the Office of the Historian of Havana City, Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, with a new restoration project. In February 1997, the Hotel Santa Isabel emerged again as a singular exponent of hostelry and tourism, in a place of nobiliary and architectural greatness, it was returned not only the name but also its old splendour, transforming the building into the worldwide known Hotel Santa Isabel.