Wednesday, January 11, 2012
14 colonial homes to explore in Quito
A piece of Ecuadorian history and culture at every corner - Quito, 3 January 2012: Visitors to Quito’s old town encounter a piece of history with every step they take. In Quito, they will find row after row of resplendent buildings from the colonial era – these include cathedrals, cloisters, district offices and private residences. The Instituto Metropolitano de Patrimonio (IMP) has catalogued 14 colonial mansions in the city, whose traditions have been documented by historian Ximena Escudero and architect Jesús Loor. Information on each can be found on the information panels located on the outside walls and inside the buildings. The colonial houses all feature an inner courtyard, which can usually be admired from a gallery on one of the upper floors. Many of the structures often contain stone or wooden pillars. Their uniformity of style is visible in both the façades and in the distribution of the rooms. Standing at the corner of García Moreno and Mejía can be found the 16th-century Casa Cadisan. The name is a shortened form of “Casa de Diego de Sandoval,” the home’s first owner. The plot and adjacent gardens remained in the possession of Diego de Sandoval’s descendants until 1995, when it was acquired by the public administration. The home comprises 1,361 square meters. The upper floors were the family’s living quarters, and the lower rooms served as a business space. It was last restored in 1880 and has seen a variety of remodelling projects. Many of the original structures, including a courtyard surrounded by arches and filled with old trees, are still standing. Today, the building houses a financial institution and a part of the municipal administration. The garden and the inner courtyards are open to visitors, and the restaurant in the inner courtyard invites travellers to linger longer and enjoy a meal. Another must-see colonial structure is the present-day Centro Cultural Metropolitano (CCM), which houses the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum. After the expulsion of the Jesuits, the site of the museum was home to the Cuartel Real de Lima, with its prison cells and underground dungeons. The home also served as a university and the seat of the diocese. Tour guide Gabriel Ponce, a specialist in culture and history, says that even a stream once flowed through the house. In the late 19th century, the Acuarela Muñoz Mariño Museum in the historical city quarter of San Marcos was the residence of sisters Brígida and Gertrudis Salas. These artists left their name on a group of houses, which came to be known as la cuadra de las pintoras (the block of the painters). The artists’ home, which is open to the public, continues this tradition to the present day. Comparatively small, it includes a narrow atrium and a charming inner courtyard. Some of the homes are private; others are in public use and are accessible to visitors. Quito city maps are the best way to locate them. The tourism police in the old city, who assist guests from all over the world with information, can also guide visitors to the desired destination. The 14 colonial homes in Quito at a glance: 1. Casa Cadisan, at the corner of García Moreno and Mejía: open to the public. 2. Museum of Colonial Art (CCE), at the corner of Cuenca and Mejía: open to the public. 3. Casa de la Virgen, at the corner of Rocafuerte and Maldonado: not open to the public, but the priest is happy to open the doors upon request. 4. Casa Montúfar (IMP), at the corner of Montúfar, Chile and Espejo: open to the public. 5. Hotel San Francisco de Quito, at the corner of Guayaquil and Sucre: open to the public. 6. El Sagrario Rectory, at the corner of García Moreno and Espejo: not open to the public, but the priest is happy to open the doors upon friendly request. 7. Centro Cultural Metropolitano (former Cuartel Real de Lima, Real Audiencia), at the corner of Espejo and García Moreno: open to the public. 8. Casa de Benalcázar, at the corner of Olmedo and Benalcázar: occasionally open for cultural events. 9. Casa de las Velas, Calle Flores, across from Calle Espejo: not open to the public. 10.Casa de José Mejía Lequerica, Calle Maldonado, across from the José Peralta School: not open to the public. 11.Casa es S. J., at the corner of García Moreno and Manabí: entry permitted upon request at the La Compañía cathedral. 12.Casa del Alabado Museum, Calle Cuenca, between Bolívar and Rocafuerte: open to the public. 13.Casa Terán Robalino - INEDES, at the corner of Venezuela and Rocafuerte: not open to the public. 14.Casa Muñoz Mariño (La Acuarela Museum), Calle Junín in the San Marcos district: open to the public.