Hotel La Diana

Hotel La Diana (1861-1887)

The building formerly used as a hotel still stands. It is located in Plaza de la Libertad (previously Plaza de Armas), at Santa Teresa No. 15, on the corner of Milanes Street. A store with the same name occupied the site since 1830. Its first owner was Don Joaquin Ferrer, who sold it to Don Lope Davalos that same year. Davalos became its absolute owner since he acquired the user rights. After 1880 others would follow.

The construction of this building was important for the city due to its architectural design, consisting of three-stories, and to its original use.

In 1856, there were few buildings in Matanzas with two-stories or more. This fact was frequently mentioned in the press, which considered that the Plaza de Armas, or Main Square, deserved buildings with more than one story, that would harmonize with that of the Government, and built according to European standards. This was a motive of concern for city planners, architects, engineers and chroniclers. Some two-story houses – or three, if we include mezzanine – had already been built in neighboring squares or sites.

Due to the narrowness of the streets in Matanzas, buildings were erected in open spaces or next to them; otherwise the result would be detrimental to the urban image.

It became obvious that Matanzas lacked and needed a deluxe hotel. The Hotel Leon de Oro, although operating as a hotel, had not occupied its final location when built specifically as a hotel and inaugurated in 1862. There is no reference to the facility prior to this date which was also three-story high and considered the best during the eighteen sixties.

From the constructive stand point, both properties had similarities. The elements previously mentioned and present-day analyses of its architectural design indicate that it was built specifically as a hotel. The Land Register does not provide the name of the owners of the commercial facility, since these properties were leased out. This was a limiting factor we encountered in almost all the hotels studied. The characteristics of its architecture are those of a hotel with regards to the distribution and use of its spaces. Descriptions from the time reaffirm that it was never meant to be used as a family dwelling, but conceived as a civil construction and used accordingly. In 1903, a secondary education center occupied its premises, which was later replaced by La Luz School in 1921, until the nationalization of the education system following the victory of the Revolution.

Ever since, it has been the headquarters of several institutions and organizations. Today it houses the offices the Cuban Workers Union (CTC), municipal trade unions and also a cafeteria.

It should be mentioned that it was the first three-story building in the city. The first tribute to Jose Marti was held there in 1916, as referenced on a plaque situated on the façade along Milanes Street, placed there on July 21, 1991.

A present-say description defines the edifice as a three-story construction which has undergone many internal transformations, with load-bearing walls and mezzanines with antique puttied flagstone. The ground floor, which harbors a central patio, presents many additions difficult to interpret; surrounded by arches leading to social areas on the ground floor and to galleries communicating with the rooms on the upper floors. There is a stairway, where the original probably stood, communicating with all the floors and with the stairs leading to the roof, covered with paving bricks. The façade is characterized by the use of elements such as splice plates, dust shields, friezes and cornices. On the second floor, along its entire perimeter overlooking Santa Teresa and Milanes Streets, there is a long continuous balcony, while each of the rooms on the third level has its own balcony.

Most of the floors have been replaced and the woodwork has been very much transformed. Only the façade, mainly of the upper stories, it is still in place, mostly characterized by panel doors.

In spite of the transformations, the building, due to its location and characteristics of its architecture, can still be used for the purpose it was built.