Plaza Vieja (Old Square)
Considering the decision taken by the keeper of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, in the first half of 16th century, to use the Parade Ground for military practices, the neighbors of the town insisted to the town council on the need to create a new public square for their amusement.
But the business deals required to acquire the lots needed to create the aforementioned square didn’t do well because of the high prices. It wasn’t until 1587 that at a town council meeting it was decided to use as a public square the area behind the Convento de San Francisco, which was being built at the time. The new square was known as Plaza Nueva (New Square) as opposed to the Plaza de Armas or Plaza Vieja (Old square). Well into the 18th century it came to be called the Plaza Vieja, as opposed to the Nueva Plaza del Cristo.
The development of the Cuban architectural style in the 18th century can be appreciated on the houses surrounding the plaza. These houses, some of them dating back to the 17th century, were two stories high, had lofty ceilings and wooden balconies. They also had ample porches to temper the hot rainy weather and wide corridors closed with blinds, on top of which there were typical crystal arches that became one of the most distinctive elements of the colonial architecture. Many of these crystal arches are still very well kept.
Among the most remarkable houses there is one that used to belong to José Martín Félix de Arrate y Acosta, one of the first three historians of Havana City (1687-1766) and one formerly owned by Gabriel Beltrán de Santa Cruz y Aranda, Count of San Juan de Jaruco, where the famous Countess of Merlin was born years later. On the side of the Plaza facing east, Laureano Torres de Ayala, Marquis of Casa-Torres and captain general, built his house during the first decade of the 18th century.
Around 1796 a fountain was erected at the plaza. In it, a bowl upon an attic column two meters high, decorated with the city and the count arms stood out. In 1835, during Miguel de Tacón’s administration, the Cristina Market, a four sided irregular parallelogram with sixty market stalls was built in honor of the Spanish Queen.
Address: Calle Inquisidor e/ Muralla y Teniente Rey