Once you leave Fort San Felipe del Morro the dirt trail will lead you straight into the old city. But if you prefer, you can walk alongside the city wall on your left and return to the trail were it ends next to the Colonial Mental Assylum.
You’ll catch a stunning view of the Old San Juan Cemetery, as well as the north side of the city wall and seafront.
We DO NOT however recommend that you venture alone into the cemetery grounds. Once again, please refrain from walking on the city walls.
The Colonial Mental Assylum is a beautiful structure built in 1854, by royal decree, to serve as an insane asylum. The building’s red dome roof stands out from El Morro grounds and the opposite end of the Glacis. Its twin courtyards used to be adorned with luscious gardens and fountains that added charm and ambiance.
After the US invasion in 1898, the Colonial Mental Assylum was converted into the Fort Brooke Military Reservation Army Barracks. Fort Brooke was a military complex that operated under the Department of the Army and included Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristóbal, Fort San Juan de la Cruz (better know as El Cañuelo), the 19th Century military barracks of Ballajá, the colonial Mental Assylum and several other adjacent structures.
In 1949 the San Juan National Historic Site was established and the entire complex was transferred to the Department of the Interior. However, the facilities were actually in Army hands until September of 1961. Many of the structures surrounding the colonial sanitarium remained closed and abandoned until 1992, when Puerto Rico celebrated the Quincentennial of the Discovery of America.
In 1965 the old Mental Assylum became the Puerto Rican Academy of Fine Arts. Today, many of the student’s projects take up much of what used to be the building’s courtyards and fountains and most tourists walk by without a hint of the building’s history.