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Cuba B.C. Before Castro

Photos of Havana before the Castro brothers destroyed it

Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue)

Quinta Avenida before the tunnel was built and cars had to use the iron bridge that is seen to the center-right

Accross the street from Parque Central

Carlos III Ave. The Masonic Building under construction on the left hand side. The umbrella on the center-left is where a policeman used to stand to change the traffic lights by hand

The Malecon, under construction

The tunnel of Calle Linea, the day it was inaugurated

Removing the old tram rails from the corner of Prado and Neptuno

The Plaza Civica, while it was under construction.

The top of the Jose Marti Monument is visible behind the building. Later, Castro changed its name to Plaza de la Revolucion

Calle San Lazaro

A view of Calle San Lazaro, from the University of Havana

Paseo del Prado (Prado Promenade)

Miramar's Fifth Avenue at night

Removing the rails that were used by the old tramways. To the right, Sarrá Drug Store, Cuba's largest

The Calzada del Cerro, how it looked 50 years ago

One of the buildings along the Calzada del Cerro, in the 1950s

One of the buildings on the same Calzada del Cerro now

Another section of the Calzada del Cerro

Carlos III Ave. under construction. To the right, the Masonic Building

Carlos III Ave. after completion

Another view of Carlos III Ave. At the end you can see the Masonic Bldg. to the left and the Iglesia de Reina to the right

One of the many beautiful buildings along Carlos III.

The tunnel of Linea Street while it was still under construction. It was built by Cuban engineers and constructors between 1951 and 1953

Calle 23 toward the Malecon

A closer view of the CMQ and Radiocentro buildings

Calle San Lazaro. All the way at the end you can see the University of Havana

Look at how many public buses were available back then. Now, Cubans refer to buses as "aspirins," because you can only take one every 6 hours

Look at these beautiful colonial buildings on San Lazaro street. Most of them are now destroyed

Calle Neptuno at Christmas time

A closeup of this store in Calle Neptuno seling a TV set. The sign on the storewindow says: "Buy in December and pay in February. No one sells cheaper"

Look at how many stores were on each block of Calle Neptuno. Also look at the crew sweeping the street. How different from now, where there is garbage everywhere!

Calle Reina with the old Sears Roebuck store

A closeup of Sears, where you can see the refrigerators and other items that were being sold.

"Los Precios Fijos" store on Calle Reina. Also, notice how everyone was well dressed. You don't see people without shirts, like you see now all over Havana, because with their meager salaries many Cubans cannot afford to buy a shirt.

The Capitol, Havana

Avenida de Cespedes, Miramar

Parque Zayas

Lonja del Comercio (Produce Exchange)

Monument to those who died in the explosion of the Maine

Havana Riviera Hotel

Another view of the Havana Riviera

El Malecon

Fountain at Parque de la India

Crossroads of the World

Galiano y San Rafael (La esquina del Pecado)

La Calle Galiano (Galiano Street)

Centro Gallego

El Centro Asturiano

Belen School

Havana's Cathedral

Santiago de Cuba's Cathedral

El Malecon and the FOCSA building

Alerta Newspaper

Hotel Saratoga

Hotel Saratoga

The world famous "Carnavales de la Habana"

The Montmartre Night Club

Las Mil y Una Noches at the Montmartre

El Caballero de Paris (The Gentleman from Paris)

The intersection of Aguila & Neptuno streets

Avenida de las Misiones

Avenida de los Presidentes

Prado & Neptuno streets

Nueva Gerona

Miramar's 5th. Ave.

Miramar's 5th. Ave.

Miramar's 5th. Ave.

National Police headquarters

Colegio La Inmaculada (The Immaculate Conception School)

Parque Central (Central Park)

Parque de la Fraternidad

Parque de la India

Fountain at Parque de la India

Lonja del Comercio

Logia de los Masones

La Manzana de Gomez

Playa de la Concha (La Concha Beach)

San Carlos Seminary

The American Embassy

Havana at Night

Havana Bay

Havana Yacht Club

Some of Havana's skyscrapers facing the Malecon

The Rodi Theater

Havana's tramways on Reina Street

Tramways crossing the bridge over the Almendares River

One of Havana's famous 'tranvias.' The Cuban Capito can be seen behind

The University of Havana

The International Nautical Club (1953)

Rancho Boyeros International Airport

                                 

I want to thank Eng. William R. Gonzalez for allowing us to share with all of you these pictures

of Cuba B.C. that bring back so many wonderful memories.

 

 El Encanto, Havana's most famous department store was also considered one of  the world's best during the 1950s.

It was founded in 1888 by two partners, José Solís and Aquilino Entrialgo.

It was situated at Havana's most famous intersection, Galiano and San Rafael, known to Cubans

as 'La esquina del pecado' (The sin's corner), because of all the beautiful women that walked by

on their way to El Encanto, and other department stores nearby, such as Fin De Siglo, Floglar,

and the 'Ten Cent' (Woolworth's).

It had subsidiaries in many other cities in Cuba.

Errol Flynn, Robert Taylor, John Wayne, Tyrone Power, Ray Milland, Debbie Reynolds, Pier

Angelli, Lana Turner and many other Hollywood luminaries, used to shop at El Encanto.

Almost every famous visitor to the Island always made a stop at this gorgeous department

store.

Here is how El Encanto looked during Christmas of 1953:

Click here to see a video with the history of El Encanto, narrated by some of its employees (Courtesy of contactocuba.com)

El Colegio de Belen (Belen School).

Fidel Castro was a student at El Colegio de Belen in Havana, and later

paid them back by taking over the school and closing it in 1961.

Here is an excerpt fro an article in the Miami Herald on the 150th. Anniversary of the Colegio de Belen: "In 1854,

the Real Colegio de Belen opened its doors to 40 students for the first time in Havana after Queen Isabel II of Spain

issued its royal charter. Officially signed over to Jesuit priests in 1898, Belen steadily grew.

By the time 80 communist soldiers occupied the school's campus for Castro in January 1961, it had 60 acres with

1,200 students. On Sept. 17 of that year, 26 Jesuit priests -- expelled by Castro -- boarded the Covadonga ship and headed for Miami. The Jesuits immediately opened a small campus for fewer than 200 students on the fourth floor

of the Centro Hispano Católico at the Gesu Church, in downtown. The following year, they moved to a warehouse

on the corner of Southwest Eighth Street and Seventh Avenue." On September 14, 1981 the school moved to its new

30 acres facilities at 500 SW 127th. Ave in Miami with an enrollment  of 598 students. Now there are more than 1,000 students from 27 different countries attending Belen.

  

   Colegio de Belen (Havana)                                                     Belen Jesuit Preparatory School (Miami)

 

El Edificio FOCSA (The FOCSA Building)

         

The FOCSA (Fomentos de Obras y Construcciones S. A) is considered one of the marvels of Cuban

engineering. Built in record time, just 28 months, the FOCSA was located on a square block between

17, 19, M and N streets in El Vedado. Construction began on February of 1954 and the building was

completed in June of 1956. The building has 39 floors, 30 floors for apartments and 9 floors for

multiple use, including a movie theater, stores, supermarket and even a TV studio.

The building, 397 feet high, was made of concrete and at the time was the second tallest concrete

building in the world.

The typical floor has 13 apartments, 5 apartments with 3 bedrooms and maid's quarters and 8 with

2 bedrooms and maid's quarters. The 3 bedroom apartments had a price of 21,500 pesos and the other

ones were 17,500 pesos each. The price would go up 30 pesos for each higher floor.

In the 1990s the FOCSA, like many other buildings in Havana, turned into an eyesore. The higher floors

became vulture nests. In 2000, there was an accident involving one of the elevators, when one of the

elevator's cable snapped, killing one person and injuring 3 others, click here to see further details: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/cuba/elevator.htm 

Many of the families still living at the FOCSA had to use the staircase to go down because they were

afraid to use the elevators that were still running.

In the last few years the Castro regime has begun repairing the FOCSA. There are rumors that it plans

to begin selling the apartments to wealthy foreigners.

 

The photos below are courtesy of Mr. Alberto Quiroga whose parents were the owners of the Palladium Jewelry located at the FOCSA:

   Sales brochures for a 3 bedrooms corner apartment and for a 3 bedroom in the center of the building

 

A true hero: Vicente León León,

the FOCSA building manager,

who died during the Bay of Pigs

Invasion in April of 1961

 

 

 

             

From left to right: Architect Ernesto Gómez-       Eng. Luis Saenz, who performed all

Sampera; another person that we have not          the calculations for the structure

been able to identify and Architect Martín            of the FOCSA

Domínguez. The Hotel Nacional, Cuba's most

famous hotel, is behind.

                               

A meeting of the Board of Directors of FOCSA in 1958.       The Windsor Barber Shop at FOCSA.

The gentleman in the front row (third from the right) in     A young Alberto Quiroga, who provided

in the white suit is Dr. Agustín Aguirre who was the first   us with these photos, is seen here getting

and last president of the Board of Directors of FOCSA.       a haircut by Luis