Hotel Saratoga explosion in Havana, Cuba


Rescue workers and firefighters work at the scene after an explosion at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana on May 6. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

The Hotel Saratoga in Havana — destroyed this Friday after a major explosion — has a long history. The building, located steps from the Capitol, was built at the end of the 19th century and, by the 1930s, it was one of the most important hotels of the city.

The building where the Hotel Saratoga is located, according to the historian Carlos Venegas, had been designed to house warehouses, homes and guest houses. It was ordered to be built by the Spanish merchant Gregorio Palacios around 1879-1880, according to the hotel.

“Gregorio Palacios, a native of Santander, was one of the richest urban owners in Havana and one of the largest contributors to the treasury,” the historian explains, according to the hotel. In 1879 he signed the contract for the construction of the three-story building.

The Hotel Saratoga, which was previously located on the street Monte, was moved to this building on street Prado around 1933.

Cars drive past the Saratoga Hotel in Havana on January 26, 2017.
Cars drive past the Saratoga Hotel in Havana on January 26, 2017. (Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images/File)

The hotel’s façade has retained some of the original features. Elements of the building such as bars, wooden lattices, marble stairs and columns show how it was originally, despite the great changes that have occurred inside its doors.

One of the curiosities highlighted by the hotel, which by 1935 was already listed in tourist guides as one of the most prominent in the Cuban capital, is part of the history of the Anacaonas, which was the first orchestra made up of entirely of women in the country.

The musical shows on the terrace attracted a large number of people to the surroundings of the building in the first part of the 20th century and it was precisely in that corner where the orchestra began.

Personalities such as the writer Rafael Alberti have passed through the Hotel Saratoga, whose visit is framed in a commemorative plaque of the building, which was reopened as a hotel in 2005.

Read more about the hotel in Spanish here.

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