The Old Navy Arsenal
Backstory and Context
The Old Navy Arsenal (Antiguo Arsenal de la Marina) is a complex of buildings and courtyards which contributes to the Old San Juan (Puerto Rico) National Historic Landmark District. In 1791 the Spanish Colonial government, began the construction of the Arsenal as a naval station to counter British attacks on the city. The original wood and palm tree leaf (yaguas) complex housed a small fleet that patrolled the shallow waters and mangrove swamps around the bay. Beginning in 1800, the Arsenal subsequently became a citadel for the marina with storage space, offices, living quarters, workshops, a coast guard, kitchens, and its own chapel. This expansion over time resulted in a mixture of architectural styles that range from Romanesque to Neoclassical. In 1898 the complex was the last stronghold of Spanish rule in the City before its capture by the U. S. Army in the Spanish‐American War. In 1957 the Government of Puerto Rico acquired the majority of the complex from the federal government of the United States through the Historic Surplus Properties Program. The remainder of the property was conveyed through the same program in 1975. Today the complex houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, where its Plastic Art Program offices are located. The complex features three exhibition galleries and a large capacity activity hall where cultural events are celebrated.