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Castillo de San Cristobal

1st Qtr 2006

Location

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Description

This issue’s limited edition print of a sketch by Ladd P. Ehlinger is of the Officers’ Quarters of Castillo de San Cristóbal, the land side fort at San Juan Puerto Rico. The view in the sketch is of the town side of the building which shows the five bays of barrel vaults of the cisterns which occupy the basement / first level of the building. They actually go below the grade level shown by about ten feet, and were the storage location of all potable water used in the fort. The barrel vault bays above reflect the same spacing, and were used as dormitories for the officers of the Spanish Army garrisoned here. The upper bays were interconnected with cross vaults that went through the supporting walls and formed a groin condition with the larger vaults. The cisterns were accessed from the upper courtyard by two wells, one used for drinking water and the other for washing.

This fort along with Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, the harbor entrance fort, was constructed by the Spanish beginning about 1515, and continued through the end of the 19th century until the Spanish American War, when it was ceded to the United States. The two forts were connected by a wall around the city of San Juan, which like the walls of the two forts was up to twenty feet thick.

When the writer was a student at LSU, he had a summer job in 1961 with the Historical American Buildings Survey (part of the US National Park Service) as a Student Assistant Architect to measure and produce measured drawings of this building. This was done with one assistant to hold the "dumb" end of the measuring tape and to hold a rod for vertical measurements. All drawings were produced by the writer and consist of plans, elevations, longitudinal and transverse sections, and details. These drawings along with others produced that summer reside in the US Library of Congress. Research was also done in the original Spanish architectural engineering documents from the 16th century.

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