Category Archives: Forts, Fortalezas and Walls

Northern Walls of Colonial Santo Domingo

The Northern Walls and Forts of Colonial Santo Domingo / Las Murallas y Los Fuertes del Norte de Colonial Santo Domingo

The walls of the north side of the old city of Santo Domingo are all but lost with a few small exceptions. From Fuerte Santa Bárbara and the battery of the Angulo, on the eastern edge of the colonial city along Rio Ozama, and Fuerte la Concepción, on the westernmost part of the city, little remains of the original Forts of Santo Domingo.

Fuerte de San Antón | Fuerte de San Francisco | Fuerte de San Miguel | Fuerte de San Lazaro | Fuerte de la Caridad

Most people visiting the Colonial City think that the walls surrounding the city only ran along the waters’ edge, the Caribbean Sea and up to Rio Ozama. But, there was more to protecting this important Colonial City than that. Many of the attacks on the city of Santo Domingo came from the land surrounding the city. The walls and forts were needed to protect the city from land attacks as well. This is why the entire city was surrounded by walls and forts.

It is sad to think that much of the history and these forts along the north side of the Colonial City are destroyed. Their walls are either destroyed or hidden behind modern buildings and forgotten.

The wall of Fuerte San Antón from Av. La Mella entering into the Colonial City
The wall of Fuerte San Antón from Av. La Mella entering into the Colonial City

These lost, or almost lost Fuertes/Forts and Murallas/Walls (east to west) are Fuerte San Antón, Fuerte de San Francisco, Fuerte San Miguel, Fuerte San Lázaro and Fuerte de la Caridad. It is easiest to see these walls walking from the Barrio of Santa Bárbara along Av. La Mella, crisscrossing between the streets of Duarte, General Cabral, Juan Isidro Pérez all the way down to Palo Hincado. (You can check the old html – nonresponsive map of the Colonial Zone and see the locations of these walls.)

Fuerte de San Antón

The wall of Fuerte San Antón accessed by Av. La Mella
The wall of Fuerte San Antón accessed by Av. La Mella

Designed by J. B. Ruggero in 1672, it is one of the seven bastions surrounding the city in the north. It was not in the best location at the bottom of a hill so it was rebuilt many times. The Ermita de San Antón sits along this wall at the Plaza San Antón. The catwalk is still visible on the top of the mural. It can be seen at the beginning of Santa Bárbara and behind the small chapel, Ermita de San Antón.

The catwalk along the top of the wall of Fuerte San Antón
The catwalk along the top of the wall of Fuerte San Antón

Directions: Hostos and General Cabral along Ave. Mella

Fuerte de San Francisco

Calle Jose Reyes and Restauracion the start of the Muralla of Fuerte San Miguel
Calle Jose Reyes and Restauracion the start of the Muralla of Fuerte San Miguel

Located between the Forts of San Miguel and Ermita de San Antón, there is nothing left of this fort but a few small traces. Its wall, at one time, connected chapel or Ermita de San Antón and Ruins of the San Francisco Monastery. The fort was demolished at the end of the 19th century.

Fuerte San Miguel Calle Jose Reyes and Restauracion
Fuerte San Miguel Calle Jose Reyes and Restauracion

Directions: Duarte and Vicente Celestino Duarte and General Cabral and Avenue Mella

Fuerte de San Miguel

The Murallas of Fuerte San Miguel
The Murallas of Fuerte San Miguel

Located in front of the church of San Miguel. All that is left of this fort is a wall that is in bad decay. More information about the Iglesia San Miguel.

Directions: Juan Isidro Pérez and José Reyes

Fuerte de San Lazaro

Calle Restauracion with the Fuerte San Lazaro in the distance
Calle Restauracion with the Fuerte San Lazaro in the distance

Constructed at the end of the 17th century using a pentagon shape. It is the only fort that has a strong double ramp leading up to the fort. This is very unique and is the only stronghold that has this type of incline. More information about the Iglesia de San Lazaro.

Fuerte San Lazaro with its unique double ramp
Fuerte San Lazaro with its unique double ramp

Directions: Juan Isidro Pérez coming in from Santomé and José Reyes

Fuerte de la Caridad/ Fort of Charity

Atop the Fuerte San Lazaro has the openings for cannons
Atop the Fuerte San Lazaro has the openings for cannons

Fuerte de la Caridad is part of the northern section of the wall, built in the late seventeenth century. It can be seen in ruins hidden behind some buildings.

Directions: Juan Isidro Pérez #215 and Mella

Part of the wall at Fuerte San Lazaro leading to Fuerte de la Caridad
Part of the wall at Fuerte San Lazaro leading to Fuerte de la Caridad

Walk The Wall Tour

These forts and walls are a much-overlooked part of the Colonial City. To understand the history of this important colonial city I suggest that when visiting that you “Walk The Wall” as I call it. I do a tour where we walk the wall and just talk and enjoy the less-visited parts of the city. The tour is very casual and leisurely. At your pace and see what you are interested in seeing. If you are interested please email me at jan@colonialzone-dr.com

Fuerte Invincible and San Diego

Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego, The Forts on Avenida del Puerto

Two of the many important forts along Rio Ozama were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. They were part of a chain of forts, with cannons at the ready, that defended the colonial city of Santo Domingo and its bustling port from enemy invasions.

All of these forts and walls were raised throughout the XVI century. It is interesting to note that these forts along the riverfront were not planned as one continuous fort. They were built as the need arose and money became available.

Fuerte Invincible | Fuerte San Diego | Puerta de San Diego | Bateria del Almirante | Puerta Atarazana | Lagoon Tanque | Location

Two important forts of Colonial Santo Domingo were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. Seen from across Rio Ozama
Two important forts of Colonial Santo Domingo were Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte San Diego. Seen from across Rio Ozama

Fuerte Invincible

Fuerte Invincible is the first fort after Fortaleza Ozama. The fortress, also called San Alberto and Coca (San Alberto y De Coca). This fort was built on the cliffs behind the mansions of Nicolás de Ovando and the Dávila family. Not only was this fort was built for the added defense of the city of Santo Domingo but more importantly to protect the mansions of the richest inhabitants of the city.

In the colonial times it is important to remember that there were no banks. Each rich family had to protect their treasures on their own. When pillagers and pirates attacked these cities they went directly for the houses of the rich and the churches were important wealth and artifacts were stored. This was the purpose of the high walled Fuerte Invincible.

The high walls of Fuerte Invincible with the Capilla de los Remedios sitting high above.
The high walls of Fuerte Invincible with the Capilla de los Remedios sitting high above.

This foreboding sturdy fort had openings for 12 cannons on both its lower and higher shooting platforms. Looking up the tall walls one could only imagine how strong this fort really was.

The high walls of Fuerte Invincible
The high walls of Fuerte Invincible

Fuerte San Diego

Fuerte San Diego was the 3rd fort entering Rio Ozama. This curved fort was also a busy port of entry for the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. It was a very important part of protecting the walled city from attack from marauders entering the Rio Ozama from the Caribbean Sea.

The walls of the Bateria Fuerte San Diego
The walls of the Bateria Fuerte San Diego

The main part of the fort was destroyed in 1886 to extend the ports. The beautiful fort was reconstructed when the work on the Malecon was finished. The original base of the Fort San Jose was discovered during archaeological excavations.

The curved Fuerte San Diego sandwiched between Ave. El Puerto
The curved Fuerte San Diego sandwiched between Ave. El Puerto

All that stands now is a small part of the fort in the center of la Avenida del Puerto, a few remnants of the walls of the fort and the rebuilt Puerta San Diego.

The curved Fuerte San Diego with its cannons pointing out to Rio Ozama
The curved Fuerte San Diego with its cannons pointing out to Rio Ozama

Puerta de San Diego

In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego / Door of San Diego (dated 1549), also called Puerta de la Mar.

In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego also called Puerta de la Mar. The large stone pillared entrance above the door are 3 shields
In front of the beautiful Puerta de San Diego also called Puerta de la Mar. The large stone pillared entrance above the door are 3 shields

The large stone pillared entrance Puerta de San Diego was completely restored in 1978. Above the door are 3 shields known as escudos. The Shield of the King / El Escudo del Rey, Shield of Hispaniola / Escudo de la Isla La Española and the Shield of Santo Domingo / el Escudo de la Ciudad de Santo Domingo.

Inside the Puerta San Diego, Plaza España, looking down from the catwalks above.
Inside the Puerta San Diego, Plaza España, looking down from the catwalks above.

As you enter the large stone door you may want to walk on the catwalks over the door and check out the view. Turn right when entering the Puerta San Diego and you will see the stairs leading up to the look-out catwalks. This path over the gate will end in front of the Casa Reales and the Plaza of the Reloj de Sol / Sun Dial.

The wall of the fort Don Diego and Puerta Don Diego is the distance.
The wall of the fort Don Diego and Puerta Don Diego is the distance.

Bateria del Almirante

After the fort of San Diego, continuing along the wall, are the Bateria del Almirante. These batteries were built into and around the walled part of the house of the Admiral or Alcázar de Colón, located strategically on a hill.

The Puerta del San Diego 1910
The Puerta del San Diego 1910

Puerta Atarazana

The Puerta Atarazana was another important entrance to the city from the ports. This large doorway entered into the main shipyard of the city. The Alcazar Colon is where Admiral Columbus lived. From here he could keep an eye on all the goods and supplies as the entered and departed from the city. The catwalk above this gate gives another good view or the Rio Ozama and surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that all the buildings in this area were storage for all the goods that came into the port. Now, these buildings are nice restaurants, bars, museums and colonial homes.

The Puerta Atarazana and the Bateria del Almirante
The Puerta Atarazana and the Bateria del Almirante

This wall of defense connected Fuerte San Diego to the other forts along the Rio Ozama Fuerte Carina and Fuerte Angulo.

The Puerta Atarazana and the Alcazar Colón
The Puerta Atarazana and the Alcazar Colón

Lagoon Tanque

It is interesting to note that at the base of Fuerte Invincible and Fuerte Don Diego was a large lagoon that was fed by the waters of Rio Ozama. The lagoon was known at Tanque / Tank. Some say it played an important part in the defensive belt for the Colonial City. After the Fuerte Ozama with its high walls lined with cannons was the narrow entrance to Rio Ozama and the tall cannon lined wall and firing platforms of Fort El Invincible with the lagoon at its base.

Location

A good starting point is at the Escaleras Calle el Conde / Stairs of Calle el Conde. The beautiful stairs, cut between the old walls of Fuerte Invincible, lead down to the outer walls of the city along Ave. Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deño, also known as the Malecon or Avenida El Puerta. Looking up you can see just how strong these walls were and how they did protect the homes of the wealthy.

The wooden walk along the outside wall of the Fuerte San Diego and the Bateria del Almirante
The wooden walk along the outside wall of the Fuerte San Diego and the Bateria del Almirante

Continue walking along the wall and you will come to a wooden bridge path, this is the beginning of Fuerte San Diego. The path ends at the Puerta San Diego. This door is beautiful with its shield and stone path. The door enters to Plaza España and the Alcazar Colón. If you continue walking on the outside of the wall it will lead to The Bateria del Almirante and the other entrance from the port Puerto Atarazana / Door of the Shipyards. The wall continues past the small police station to Fuerte Carina and Fuerte Angulo and around to Fuerte Santa Barbara.

Reference:
*https://www.diariolibre.com/noticias/ciudad/los-fuertes-en-la-avenida-del-puerto-EE3457969
*https://www.facebook.com/historiadominicanaengraficas/posts/historia-de-la-puerta-de-san-diego-en-la-zona-colonialla-puerta-de-san-diego-loc/527995694065585/

Fuerte and Parque San José

Fuerte y Parque de San José/ Fort and Park San Jose

The Fuerte San José is a beautifully restored fort located in the historic Colonial City. The Parque San Jose is a well-kept park. It is the perfect place to relax. You can watch some young people do some skateboarding or enjoy a game of basketball all under the beautiful shade trees located throughout the park.

Fuerte San José | Parque San José | Location

Fuerte de San José, shooting platform, cannons and watchtowers with the view of the Monument Montecino.
Fuerte de San José, shooting platform, cannons and watchtowers with the view of the Monument Montecino.

The Fuerte San José

was part of a series of bastions built to defend the walled city of Santo Domingo in the 16th century. It was part of the walls that ran along the Caribbean Sea and was an important part of the protection from attacks by sea.

The rectangular shaped fort San José
The rectangular shaped fort San José

Fuerte San José was built near the mouth of the Rio Ozama. The strategic placement of this fort was to watch the comings and goings at the mouth of Rio Ozama. The rectangular shaped fort has an artillery platform that was equipped on 3 sides with cannons. Its two watchtowers (garitas redondas) lookout out points gave a great view of the surrounding sea and land. There was also a lighthouse located in the fort at the entrance to the Rio Ozama that guided ships into the mouth of the river.

Fort San José and the Faro (lighthouse) in the early 1900's.
Fort San José and the Faro (lighthouse) in the early 1900’s.

It is important to remember that the road (The Malecon) in front of the fort did not exist at that time. It was built later by President-Dictator Trujillo. During the time of the colonization of Santo Domingo the water came up to the walls of these seaside forts. Now the walls are surrounded by a road.

Looking to Fort San José from the front.
Looking to Fort San José from the front.

Construction of Fort San Jose began in the mid 1500’s and took over 2 centuries to complete. The walls were built first by president Alonso de Fuenmayor who had some serious money problems and could not complete construction. Finally, at the beginning of the 17th century, the wall of this important fort was finished. Finishing the wall ensured that the seafront was fully protected by connecting the forts San Gil, San Fernando, San Carlos, Santa Catalina to San José. San Gil and San José were the largest of these forts that provided the main defense of the city of Santo Domingo.

View of Fuerte and Parque San José from Calle 19 de Marzo
View of Fuerte and Parque San José from Calle 19 de Marzo

Parque San José

In the 1940’s the deteriorating fort was restored and a beautiful shaded park was created surrounding the bastion. Parque San José is a place where locals like to gather to enjoy a time of rest and to visit friends and family. There are all types of nice places for you to sit and relax and enjoy the view.

Friends, family and pets enjoying the shade in Parque San José.
Friends, family and pets enjoying the shade in Parque San José.
Parque San José. Relax and enjoy the view.
Parque San José. Relax and enjoy the view.
The view of Montecinos from Fuerte San José
The view of Montecinos from Fuerte San José

You can climb the shooting ramp to the elevated platform of the old Fort San José. Here you can have a perfect view of the statue of Fray Anton de Montecino.

Parque San José Ornamental Fountain
Parque San José Ornamental Fountain

Located in the center of the larger part of the park is an Ornamental Fountain that the United States gifted to the Dominican Republic. It was placed here to mark the 100 year centennial anniversary of the country’s independence and the expulsion of the Haitian government from the country.

Fuerte San José and the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument and the Skateboard Park
Fuerte San José and the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument and the Skateboard Park

Facing Ave. George Washington in the park is the Japanese Agricultural Immigration Monument. You can see this beautiful monument that symbolizes the arrival of Japanese Immigrants to Dominican Republic.

Fort San Jose Basketball court and Skateboard parks.
Fort San Jose Basketball court and Skateboard parks.

There is Montecino Skateboard Park in the Parque San José located on the Malecon near to Calle Arz Meriño. You can see many skate events or watch someone having a good time skating on the ramps and jumps of the park. You can always bring your board and have a go.

Under the street Jose Gabriel Garcia is The Cueva de las Golondrinas next to the Basketball Court
Under the street Jose Gabriel Garcia is The Cueva de las Golondrinas next to the Basketball Court

A Basketball Court is also located in the park on the corners of The Malecon, Calle Arz Meriño and Jose Gabriel Garcia where you can watch the game from above. If you go down to the court level there are small rooms under the street. This is known as The Cueva de las Golondrinas / Cave of Swallows. This is an underground storage place for equipment, street signs and there is a small police station.

Fortaleza and Parque San José along Calle Jose Gabriel Garcia.
Fortaleza and Parque San José along Calle Jose Gabriel Garcia.

Location:

From Calle El Conde walk towards the sea on Calle 19 de Marzo or Meriño to the Malecon. The Fort – Park is located between these 2 streets running along the Malecon in front of the monument Fray Anton de Montesino. Between Avenida George Washington (Paseo Presidente Billini – Malecon) and Jose Gabriel Garcia and Calle 19 de Marzo, Ciudad Colonial.