Nigel Alexander Hunt
Did you know?
• The first silent film screened in Cuba was shown on the Edificio Manzana de Gómez's rooftop cinema.
• The namesake, Andrés Gómez Mena, was shot dead on the steps of his own building.
1894: Andrés Gómez Mena buys the property & concludes the ground floor.
1913: First silent film premiers in Cuba at its Politeama Chico cinema.
1917: The 5th floor was finally completed 27 years after construction had begun.
1917: Andrés Gómez Mena is murdered at the entrance to his building by an offended Catalan watchmaker.
2009: Preliminary studies by the Cuban architect José Antonio Choy & his team are done to turn the manzana into a hotel.
2014: A deal is struck between the current Cuban owner, Gaviota, & the Swiss chain Kempinksi Hotels, for the latter to manage & market a hotel, to be re-constructed by Almest & Bouygues Batiment of France.
2014: The facade starts being restored & guts ripped out to allow for a splendid colonial style but spankingly modern "Hotel Manzana".
History & Nowadays
What is now the Hotel Manzana kicked off in 1863 when it was decided that the Old Havana defensive walls were to be dismantled & the lands sold off. A large section was purchased in the 1890's by the rich slave trader, Julián de Zulueta y Amondo who began the Manzana building's construction, beginning with a massive substructure in the place of the old wall's defensive moat.
Mr Zulueta then sold the property to Andrés Gómez Mena (Chichón), who was from one of the richest families of Cuban society in 1894. Mr Gómez soon finished the ground floor & leased commercial space for shops & offices, & opened his own bank. Sadly for Mr Gómez, he was subsequently shot dead, on the steps of his smart new building by watchmaker Fernando Reugart. The press rather politely put it , "he was offended by Mr Gómez' disrespect of his wife".
Nevertheless what became the Manzana de Gómez, was revamped & expanded several times. Large marble stairs were added as well as eight modern elevators & was know as one of the most modern buildings in Latin-America & more than 25,000 people a day passed through it's crossed passageways each day.
As of mid 2017 the remodelled Manzana de Gómez will be the "Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinksi La Habana" aka Hotel Manzana. Apparently it will have a 1000 sq meter spa, night club, rooftop swimming pool & restaurant with panoramic view, history museum in the basement & 246 luxury bedrooms are just some of the modern highlights.
The heart and soul of Havana is the old town Habana Vieja, declared a Heritage of Mankind Site in 1982
by UNESCO. It was keen to preserve the beauty of its architecture and promote the historical importance
of its role within the region.
The following are just some of the interesting places to visit: Plaza de Armas, centred around a statue of the patriot Cespedes and emcompassed by shaded marble benches and second-hand booksellers, is the first public square built in the city. Plaza de la Catedral is perhaps the most beautiful square in the Caribbean which is surrounded by examples of the finest baroque architecture in the country. El Templete, small neoclassical temple which marks the spot where the first.
Mass was said in 1519. Castillo de la Real Fuerza is one of the oldest forts in the Americas, it holds modern art exhibitions downstairs and the battlements afford good views over the harbour. Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the seat of government and governor's residence was transferred from the fort to the built. The presidential palace and then the municipal palace until Castro seized power it is now Museo de la Ciudad de la Habana. Museo de Arte Colonial, fine palace constructed in 1720, its yellow courtyard and little-altered architectural features are complemented by a large collection of 17th- and 18th-century furniture. Calle Obispo is Old Havana's most important and smartest thoroughfare, pedestrianized with missile heads as bollards.