Finally one of capital’s most historic buildings gets a designation

After 107 years, the Victorian-Neoclassical structure that dominates Avenida Primera in San José has been declared a national architectural heritage site.

This is the building now called Castillo Azul that has served as the private home of a coffee baron, presidential offices and for 31 years as the U.S. Embassy. It is located strategically on the north side of the hill known as Cuesta de Moras.

Now the building is part of the legislative complex. The structure joins its neighbors in receiving the designation, which also provides a certain amount of protection.

The neighbors are Casa Rosada, the Antiguo Colegio de Sión and the Antiguo Cuartel Bellavista, which is part of the Museo Nacional across the street.

The structure was casa presidencial for Alfredo González Flores between 1914 and 1917, the government of Federico Tinoco from 1917 to 1919 and that of  Francisco Aguilar Barquero in 1919 and 1920.

Coffee baron Máximo Fernández Alvarado had the structure built as his private home in 1908. The U.S. government purchased it in 1923 for $30,000 and used it as the embassy until 1954 when it was sold to Carlos Manuel Gutiérrez Cañas for $75,000.

The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural said that Gutiérrez invested $1 million to restore the property.

Gutiérrez managed to have the property declared a heritage site in 1976, but the designation expired two years later. At that time the decree was designed to protect the building from legislators who wanted to expropriate it and demolish it for more offices.

The Asamblea Legislative finally did acquire the property in 1989 for use as offices.

Another restoration took place three years ago when the Centro de Patrimonio, invested 250 million colons, then about $525,000.

Despite its ownership by the government, the official designation of architectural heritage took two years to process. It was made official last month.

This is what is now Castillo Azul in 1910.

This is what is now Castillo Azul in 1910.

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