16th-Century Fort Crumbles in Puerto Rico
By Manuel Santiago | From Online Only | May 22, 2007
Dear Preservation 911,
I am writing to express my concerns about the destruction of historical site in the city of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
The site, which as of today is not listed in the National Register or at local level, is the Polvorin de San Miguel Arcangel (polvorin is a powderhouse) built by the Spanish at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century as part of the city of Arecibo's defensive system.
The structure was part of the Fort of San Miguel Arcangel, located at the edge of the peninsula where Arecibo is located and at the entrance of the mouth of the Rio Grande de Arecibo. The construction of these two military structures (the fort and the powderhouse) was a result of battle in 1702 when a British fleet tried to invade the city and local militia in charge of Captain Antonio de Los Reyes Correa defeated it. The colonial government decided to build these buildings as a protective measurement against any future attacks of foreign powers.
Subsequently, the old Fort deteriorated and in 1881 was demolished by local authorities. In its place they built a square, "Paseo de Damas." The powderhouse, which is owned by the municipal government, was eventually abandoned and now is a parking lot. There are still good remains of the main structure and remnants of its surrounding wall. Unfortunately it is filled with garbage and has had no maintenance.
Without action, Arecibo will lose one of the few military structures outside the Old San Juan; the others being el Fuerte del Canuelo or San Juan de la Cruz (Cataño), el Fuerte de la Concepcion (Aguadilla) y el Fortin del Conde de Marisol (Vieques).
It is my hope that this military structure is protected for future organizations. Please let me know if there is something you can do to help.
E-mail the writer with advice, comments, or commiseration.
Got a 911 in your town? Send us an e-mail.
Preservation 911 is a message board open to all readers. While National Trust staff will respond to the extent feasible, this will not be possible in all cases. We encourage other readers involved in state or local preservation to respond with advice or assistance. To contact either a regional office of the National Trust, a statewide or local nonprofit organization, or your state's historic preservation office, click here for a state-by-state list.
The National Trust's regional and field offices bring the programs and tools of the Trust to communities across the country. They offer technical assistance through consultations and field visits and financial help through small grants. They hold educational programs for professional preservationists and work to foster policies that help historic places. They also provide leadership on issues that concern entire regions, such as saving historic schools, fighting sprawl, and revitalizing cities.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.