Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
Visitors to Cojímar—the fishing village outside Havana where novelist Ernest Hemingway berthed his sport-fishing vessel, Pilar—invariably are struck by the imposing, near-derelict, four-story pink-stone structure that commands the heights overlooking the bay.
“What’s that?” my tour guests always ask as we pass the once grandiose Republican building.
That is—or once was—the Hotel Campoamor.
Built in 1907 for its aristocratic owner, Doña Pilar Fernández Samohano del Toro (Doña Pilar also owned the Hotel Telegrafo, on Havana’s Parque Central, and the Ice Hotel, in Paris), in its day the Campoamor was considered one of the most luxurious hotels in the Caribbean.
It was famed for its gardens and its interior graced with precious hardwoods, and with a marble terrace and lampposts that served as an inspiration for Havana’s Paseo del Prado (Paseo Martí).
In 1916, the Beach Club Cojímar opened nearby and sugar baron and chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey received permission to extend his electric railroad (inaugurated in 1923) from the Havana harborfront village of Casablanca to Cojímar. Families flocked from the capital city to relax at the city’s nearest beach hotel complex, which the U.S. Army of Cuban Pacification (1906-08), in its “War Report: Military Notes on Cuba” (1909), thought would make “an excellent general hospital.”
And thus it came to pass.
In 1916, the government of President Mario García Menocal purchased the hotel to be used as a medical center: the Preventorio Tuberculosis José Martí—one of 14 such centers at the time for child victims of tuberculosis.
It served as such (and is still known to locals as "El Preventorio") until the Cuban Revolution, when it was turned into offices of the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The MOE still owns the building, which it abandoned to the elements years ago.
Today its windows are missing. Its walls are cracked. And weeds sprout from the mortar and roof.
However, ao year ago I noticed that the place had been cleaned up. Although still abandoned, the building looked like it was being tidied up for possible restoration.
Then, lo and behold… two months ago I received an email from a hotelier friend in Costa Rica who mentioned that he was in discussion with a foreign hotel company: “Having interesting talks about a sustainable boutique hotel operation in Cuba… will keep you posted.” I asked him if it was the former Hotel Campoamor. I sent him the photograph of the postcard above. “Yes, that’s it!” he replied.
Meanwhile, in 2008 Costa Rican architect José Antonio López Toirac and Cuban architect Roberto Caballero designed a conceptual plan for an integrated restoration of Cojímar: Pueblo de Pescadores (Cojímar: Fisherman’s Village). The fact that Caballero was principal planner of the now much-decayed Villa La Panamericana, in Cojímar, for the Panamerican Games in 1991, suggests that the project may well be on the official radar of the Cuban government.
In the plan, the former Quinta de Pedralves (Quinta Boada)—a near derelict Art Nouveau mansion (1910) opposite Cojímar’s famed La Terraza restaurant (a favorite of Hemingway)—will also become a hotel, as will the derelict becolumned building cater-corner to the restaurant.
Stay tuned… but don’t hold your breathe!
For complete information on Cuba, including how to travel there, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba—the most comprehensive, information-packed, traveler-friendly, and unbiased guidebook in print.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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