A few steps further up the street from Eugenio María de Hostos Square you’ll arrive at the oldest continuously occupied residence in the Western Hemisphere. In 1521, the Spanish colonial government started construction of the “Casa Blanca” or white house to be the official residence of governor Juan Ponce de León and the Island’s first stone fort.
The governor died that same year in Cuba, after being mortally wounded while attempting to establish a colony near the Caloosahatchee river in Florida. The Ponce de León family occupied La Casa Blanca for over 250 years until the Spanish military took over the facilities in 1779. After the US invasion in 1998, the Casa Blanca became the official residence of the US Military Commanders until it was returned to the people of Puerto Rico in 1966.
Two stone lions and the family’s coat of arms over the massive wooden doors adorn the entrance to this beautiful building. The white stucco dwelling is comprised of a foyer, study, two bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, oratorio, garden, orchard, and a special throne room for receiving royal visits.
Today the complex serves as a National Historic Monument and houses a museum about life on the Island during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. Each room is decorated using antique Spanish furniture to represent the building’s different historical periods as authentically as possible. The Casa Blanca grounds are presently undergoing an extensive restoration to return them to the luscious garden atmosphere that characterized them for centuries. One special feature is the garden fountain, which was inspired on the famous Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain.
La Casa Blanca is located at 1 Calle San Sebastián, one of the most famous streets in Old San Juan, and its open to the public Tuesday thru Sunday, from 9 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. Tours are available by appointment at a nominal cost of $2 for adults and $1 for children. For information, please cal 787-725-1454.