Historical walks
through Limón

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Historical walks through Limón

On September 25, 1502, Christopher Columbus took his fourth and final voyage to the Caribbean coast. Even though he did not disembark for health reasons, he had knowledge of the characteristics of the region and came in contact with some indigenous inhabitants. After this event, for more than two centuries, Carian (Limon) remained virtually unknown since the ports of Suerre (1576), Matina (1637), and then Moin (1839), were the only accessible ports along the Caribbean coast.

When independence came along, the first governors were concerned about establishing a port along the Caribbean coast that could be used for trading commerce with Europe. However, this possibility was not very viable given the difficulties in opening a route to the coast due to the harsh climate and thick vegetation.

On November 9, 1865, the then governor Jose Maria Madriz declared Limon as the first port city along the Atlantic coast. In 1870, Limon was designated a region and according to the designs of engineer Francisco Kurtze, the clearing began and the perimeters of the city established. Five years later (1871), the main town was moved from Moin to Limon and port facilities were constructed. In 1871, in order to facilitate coffee exportation, governor Tomas Guardia tried to have a railway built that connected the Central Valley to the Port of Limon, but the project failed.

The project was reinitiated again 1884 by means of a contract with Soto-Keith and finally on December 7, 1890, the first railway was inaugurated, which was owned by the Northern Railway Co. The construction of the railway was made possible by two key events. The first was in December 1872 when the first boat arrived from Kingston Jamaica carrying with it workers from Jamaica. Afterwards, these workers remained in the area permanently. The second important event was the rise of banana plantations and the establishment of the Untied Fruit Co. (1899).

On July 25, 1892, Limon increased in rank to that of a canton. In 1903, the first lighting system was installed. In 1907, the city developed its first sewer system and in 1912 a pipe system was introduced to transport potable water. Limon and the province as a whole developed into a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual area in the 20th century with Africans, Chinese, Indigenous and Mestizos that came from the central valley.

With respect to architecture, the style known as Victorian Caribbean spread and was used in large commercial construction projects as well as in the residential realm. The design paid special attention to the harsh conditions of the region with respect to protection from the rain and the sun. Therefore the region developed its own unique architecture that was very different from the interior of the country. Traditional housing was made from wood and the floors rested on pillars.

They also had porches, hallways, attics, and woven reed mats for ventilation. The roofs were made galvanized iron sheets with a steep pitch, and prominent overhangs for protection from the rain and the sun. Today, in the town of Jamaica Town, which is largely inhabited by Afro-Caribbeans, many of these homes, some 80 to 100 years old, still remain and are painted with a traditional bluish-green color. During the first half of the 20th century, in the city of Limon, the Spanish contractor and builder Cesar Rivaflecha Zavala, the engineers Guillermo Gargollo and Rogelio Pardo Jochs, as well as the architects Jose Maria Barrantes Monge and Rafael Garcia all played an important role in important construction projects.

In 1999, a boardwalk was planned that runs from Vargas Park to the City Market measuring more than 1,000 feet long.

1- Vargas Park

In 1895, the United Fruit Co. donated the land to build a park in the city of Limon. The governor of the province Balvanero Vargas, in his desire to bring together a beautiful project, made every possible effort and was in charge of two different boats captains that arrived at the port and brought with them tropical trees from Cuba and Jamaica plus laurels from India, palm trees and croton plants. For the design of the park, he hired the Frenchman Andres Bonife, who came from Martinique Island. With an area of 55,000 sq. feet, he chose a classic design inspired by the drawings of Versalles. The result was a tropical green area where lush vegetation grew in an ideal micro-climate.

In 1905, it was inaugurated as Vargas Park, in homage to Balvanero Vargas. Toward the end of the 19th century, a Victorian style metal kiosk was installed with an octagonal floor, similar to the kiosk in Morazan Park, but in 1911, it was replaced by another one made of re-enforced concrete and in neoclassical style. The structure still has the octagonal floor as well as columns in the corner and four staircases. It is decorated with plant and animal sculptures in Art Noveau style. The designer was Cesar Rivaflecha. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on June 26, 1995.

Located between 1st and 2nd Avenue, 1st Street.

2- Balvanero Vargas Molina monument

He was born in San Jose and owned a coffee plantation in Pavas. He served in the Municipality of San Jose and was a legal notary and Secretariat under President Jesus Jimenez Zamora. Later, he moved to Limon, dedicating himself to public endeavors which established him as a benefactor for the province. In 1883, he was named Governor of the Province and Port Captain. Thanks to his foresight, he managed and designed projects including the construction of the breakwater to create more space in the city, the central park (which carries his name), the pipe system in the city, and organizing the main roads. Balvanero died in Limon in 1905. On October 12, 1973, a bust with his image was unveiled in Vargas Park, measuring some 3 feet and created in granite by the national sculptor Nestor Zeledon Guzman.

Located on 1st and 2nd Avenue, 0 and 1st Street.

3- Quiribri Island

In 1502, Christopher Columbus arrived on his fourth and last voyage to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. His ships anchored on the coasts of Costa Rica around the area which today is known as Port of Limon. It is said that Christopher Columbus greatly admired the beauty of the small island located in front of Cariay (Cariari). It was an island named after the indigenous population, Quiribri and that he christened it as La Huerta. It later became known as Uvita. The island is located a few miles from the Port of Limon and can be reached from the coast in just 10 minutes.

It has 15 acres of land and is half a mile long from north to south and about 1,000 feet wide. It is an islet with lush scenery, typical of tropical rain forest. Some of the plants to be observed are almond, Peruvian Poro, Chamaedorea, Tobacco, Guarumos, Spanish cedar, and an array of ferns and palm trees. A dock was constructed on the islet, as well as a light house and a manor. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on September 26, 1985. In 1986, the National Nomenclature Commission reinstituted its original name ¨Quiribri.¨

Located in front of the port.

4- Port Authority

The building was erected in the 1930s based on the designs of Cesar Rivaflecha in order to be occupied by the Port Authority, the province´s government, as well as the governor himself. It has an Afro-Caribbean or Antilles influence, very much like the buildings constructed for the United Fruit Co. It is a corner building and has a layout in the shape of a ¨L.¨ It is made up of two floors with an interior patio, a handrail balcony on the second floor, while on the first floor there is a wide open corridor. The building uses Tea wood beams in the walls, the floors, and the ceiling. Cross-woven mats are used for ventilation which is very suitable for the climate of the area and large double plied windows in guillotine style. It served as the Port Authority and Government offices until 1986. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on November 26, 1995.

Located between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 1st Street.

5- Municipal Palace

The current building dates back to 1942 and it is said that the floor design came from the engineer Rogelio Pardo, while the concept of the facade is that of the architect Jose Maria Barrantes Monge, one of the most prestigious architects of the first half of the 20th century in Costa Rica. The design of the facade offers very stylistic elements similar to that used by Barrantes in other buildings in the Central Valley. The construction is made of brick in neoclassical style, and takes the shape of a ¨U¨ which uses steel trusses from the first market in 1893. The building has galleries and archways as well as tipped-arch windows on the first floor. Over the last few years, gardens have been installed with a statue of the indigenous hero Pablo Presbere. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on July 26, 2002.

Located on 2nd Avenue, between 0 and 1st Street.

6- Pablo Presbere Monument

It is believed that Presbere was born in the 1670s and became chief of the Suinse or Suinsi. Pablo Presbere is known as the most feared warrior of Talamanca due to his bravery and valor in rebelling against the Spanish invaders in 1709. The indigenous uprising stemmed from the injustices and subjugation that the Spaniards caused in the Talamanca region. He brought together the indigenous people who lived in the area from Chirripo to the island of Tojar or Colon in the Admiral Bay. On September 28, 1709, leading a group of Cabecares and Terrabas, he attacked the Urinama convent in order to extend the insurrection all the way to Cartago.

In February, 1710, the governor Lorenzo de Granda y Baibin organized an army to quash and capture the insurgents. On July 4, 1710, Presbere was shot in the city of Cartago. An eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Presbere was erected in the gardens of Limon.

Located on 2nd Avenue, 0 and 1st Street.

7- Costa Rica Pension

The land on which the Pension Costa Rica was built belongs to the architect Quinto Vaglio Bianchi, a businessman of Italian descent. In 1905, Vaglio created the design for the three floor lodge and Cesar Rivaflecha was in charge of the construction. The facade has a symmetrical design and an overall correspondence between the balconies and the doors. Stylistically, it is based on French neoclassical design in order to project a unique image within the landscape of the city. It was built with a steel frame and brick for the walls.

It is plated with grey granite on the first two floors and pink on the third floor. Its forged steel rail balconies stand out with false columns in the door frames, as well as stone in the pointed arches, which crowns the access to each balcony. There is a central patio and internal corridors that face each other on all three floors. In 1919, the hotel was handed over to Guillermo Niehaus Ehlers, and in 1973, it was transferred to the Coblenza Ltd. Company, owned by Hans Niehaus Ahrenas. Then, in 1982, it was acquired by Maria Lourdes Torres Zapata. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on September 5, 1997.

Located on 2nd Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Street.

8- Post Office and Telegraph Building

The building was constructed in 1911 and its first owner was Miiridge, of Jewish descent. Stylistically, the building offers a mix of neocolonial and neoclassical styles adapted to the environment, as well as some Art Noveau elements. The two floor design was created by Cesar Rivaflecha who implemented its symmetrical design and ¨U¨ shaped floor plan. It has a central patio which is accessible by interior corridors on both levels. The frame of the building is made with thick iron beams and a brick exterior.

In the beginning, the first floor was used by local commercial businesses and the second floor was for residential purposes. Externally, there are 15 large doors on the street level, and on the second level, an equal number of forged iron rail balconies. On the facade there are Corinthian arched pilasters. The doors and windows are decorated in Art Noveau style with polychrome plaster motifs alluding to railroads and shipping. Over time, it has seen many uses. In the 1950s, the government acquired it, converting it into a branch of the Judicial Court System, the Mayor´s office and the Police Agency. In the 1960s, it was used for the JAPDEVA offices, the Rural Guard and the New School. Since 1973, it has been the home of the Post Office and Telegraph Department. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on November 5, 1981.

Located on 2nd Avenue, 4th Street.

9- City Market

All newly founded cities need to resolve a number of immediate and urgent needs. Among them is the existence of a market for the residents. Therefore, Limon decided to establish its first market in 1893, on the same site where it currently exists today.

Afterwards, during the 1930s, the building underwent a series of remodelings and expansions. However, its current features date back to the first two years of the Calderon Guardia administration (1940-1944), a period during which it was practically rebuilt under the supervision of Rogelio Pardo Jochs and the architect Jose Maria Barrantes. Its Art Deco style is very similar to the Kingston Jamaica market, taking from it its closed style for health, aesthetic and safety reasons. Originally, it was a symmetrical building and was surrounded by wide open gardens. Today, its appearance is a bit chaotic as a result of the gardens having been overtaken by commercial establishments. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on September 22, 1998.

Located on 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 3rd and 4th Street.

10- The Culture House

In 1938, this building of re-enforced concrete was constructed to be initially used as the city´s meat market, but in 1939, it was converted into the Sanitary Department of Limon. The facade is in Art Deco style, which was very common during that time. In the 1960s, the center of the building was converted into El Oasis restaurant, which was very popular among seamen that arrived at the port. It also offered a large dance floor, a bar and a restaurant. The restaurant was opened by Ruben Acon Leon, the building´s renter, who also had his home on the second floor of the building. In the middle of the 1980s, The State took it over in order to convert it into the Uman Popular Theater and a Culture House. In order to do this, they proceeded to remodel the internal space by means of demolishing the second floor and installing stage machinery and seating. In one of the side sections, offices for the Culture House were installed and on the other side is the still existing Bonilla Bookstore.

Located on 3rd Avenue, 3rd Street.

11- Cariari Hotel

In 1910, investors from Great Britain built a two-floor structure in order to establish a bank for English capital. The eclectic design with neoclassical elements was created by Cesar Rivaflecha and was made of concrete and brick. It has fluted columns and Corinthian capitals on the first floor and Doric columns on the second floor. Both have balconies and covered corridors. One interesting element of the building is the extensive decorative molding on the support beams. The vanes on the first floor have medium point arches, while those on the second floor have squared arches. Over time, the uses for the building have changed. During the World War II it belonged to the U.S. Embassy, which was used as a consulate. It was also a Charles Kit Patrick pharmacy. Afterwards, the building was used for residential housing and local businesses with Tobias Berenson as the owner. It then became the Hotel Cariari with Maria Maguini as the owner. Today it is owned by Omar Corella Izquierdo. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on February 23, 2001.

Located on 3rd Avenue, 2nd Street.

12- Breakwater

Even in 1883, during the high tides, the ocean flooded much of the area up to the area where the current city market stands. Because of this condition, the governor of Limon, Balvanero Vargas (1893 - 1905) vowed to reverse this situation. He ordered the lower coastline of the city to be filled with sand brought in carts from nearby beaches and build a breakwater. The job to build the breakwater led to a construction contract in 1891 with Minor Keith. In 1895, work was underway to build a one and a half foot thick concrete retaining wall. The design included an overhang on the inside of the wall to create a seat that would extend all along the breakwater and would also serve as a place to sit and see the ocean. The breakwater extends from the west where the railway platforms are to the customs station and the east zone of the city and to the extreme north, meaning that it extends from Vargas Park all the way to the Tony Facio Hospital.

The construction eliminated the mud and encouraged growth of the city by means of consolidating new spaces that were distributed among the population to build new housing. Today, the breakwater is a reference point of the urban story and the irreplaceable scenery of the city. In 1991, a strong earthquake hit the Caribbean region and it was determined that the ocean floor rose causing the ocean to recede some 150 feet. This event caused the breakwater to no longer serve its original purpose. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on June 26, 1995.

Located along the coast that borders the city.

1- Baptist Missionary House

At the end of the 19th century, this building was constructed in Victorian Antilles style, resting on pylons and made entirely of wood. The two-floor structure with balconies was designed to be used for offices of the Baptist church and lodging house. The construction came about from interest from the Jamaican Baptist congregation undertaking religious missions to the Black community that lived on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. In 1888, the Baptist church was the first to arrive to Costa Rica. In 1894, the Methodists followed, and in 1895 the Anglicans arrived. On May 27, 1888, the Reverend Joshua Heath Sobey arrived, who was sent by the Jamaican Baptist Missionary Society, in order to observe the spiritual conditions of the immigrants.

Because of his visit, he resolved to establish a mission in Limon that would provide support to all of Central America. The financing for the construction came from Jamaica and Sobey was named as a missionary. From the moment of its inauguration, it was known as the Missionary House. Today, it continues being the branch for the church´s offices. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on April 4, 2002.

Located on 6th Avenue, 5th Street.

2- The Cathedral

In 1892, the first Catholic church of Limon was established with the parish choosing the Sacred Heart of Jesus as its patron saint. During the vicariate period, the church was under the guidance of the Vincentian Order, who were from Germany. Between 1954 and 1956, the cathedral was constructed in brick and concrete. In the 1940s the Episcopal House was erected in neoclassical style. In 1994, the Diocese was established with the Presbyter Jose Francisco Ulloa as its first bishop. The cathedral was demolished in 2001. The new cathedral was design in modern style by the Mexican architect Raul Godar. There is a unique nave with a capacity for some 600 parishioners. The material used was concrete mixed on site with exposed finishes. It was consecrated in 2009. The building retained the stained glass windows, bells, and the Christ statue at the back of the cathedral. The new project aimed to preserve the bell tower from the old church.

Located on 3rd and 4th Avenue, 5th and 6th Street.

3- Tomas Guardia Gutierrez School

In 1870, Limon was declared a town to meet the need to create a port for international commerce. Two years after they started developing lots and property, in order to populate the area, they undertook the urgent task of establishing a learning center for the children of the area. So, on February 12, 1877, during the Tomas Guardia Gutierrez administration (1870-1882), orders were given for the construction of the first education center called Higher Learning School for Boys in Limon. Over time, the infrastructure of the building was modified until the Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia administration (1940-1949) managed to construct a new two floor building made of re-enforced concrete. Since then, it has been expanded with new halls made from brick and ornamental concrete blocks.

The oldest section, created in the Rationalist style, is a design by the architect Jose Maria Barrantes Monge. The education center, as an institution, is the oldest of its kind in the city. It was given the name of General Tomas Guardia Gutierrez as homage to the president who established the first school in Limon. It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on May 17, 1989.

Located on 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 5th Street.

4- Big Boy Baseball Stadium

At the end of the 19th century, baseball took hold as a sport in Limon on an open field as a result of the influence of US workers who arrived in the area to build the railway to the Caribbean and thereafter to establish the banana industry. In 1887, a formal field was inaugurated and later became what is now the baseball stadium. Ten years later (1897), the United Fruit Co. legally donated the land to the city in order to encourage the sport in the city. In the 1940´s, the stadium was closed for remodeling and new brick fences were built as well as new stands. After that, the decision was made to christen it as the Big Boy Baseball Stadium in memory of, and homage to the famous ball player Bancroft Scott. The stadium has no architectural relevance, but it played a great role in the development of the sport in the city.

It was declared a historical and architectural heritage site on July 18, 2002.

Located on 1st and 2nd Avenue, 6th and 7th Street.

5 - Juan Goban Soccer Stadium

Initially, the site that the stadium occupies today was just an open space known as Plaza Iglesias and belonged to the local municipality, in the 1940s, soccer was played there, but there were no stands. In 1963, the Limon soccer team made it to the first division. Two years later (1965), the field was closed off with a brick wall and stands with wood seats were installed, making it a modest stadium. In 1993, due to the 15th National Sporting Games, premade stands were installed and offices were built for the County Sports committee. Juan Goban Quiros (1904-1930) was the first football player from Limon, who played in the first division in San Jose. It was used for the Limon Gymnastics and La Libertad Sport Club from 1921 to 1929.

Located on 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 8th and 9th Street.

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