Calle Las Damas/ Street of the Ladies is the oldest street in the Americas. It is a beautiful street lined with historical buildings from the original settlement of Santo Domingo.
Calle Las Damas
was originally named Calle de la Fortaleza/ The street of Strength or Fortress when it was created in 1502 during the reign of Nicolás de Ovando. The street has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The arrival of Admiral and Viceroy Diego Columbus and his wife doña María de Toledo brought a little class to this new city. María de Toledo was the great niece of the King of Spain, King Ferdinand. Many of the high society of Spain and the ladies “of culture” took up residence on Calle de la Fortaleza. The name was changed later to Calle las Damas, named for the Ladies-in-Waiting that strolled up and down its north to south running length.
A Street of Many Names
During its history the street had many names, most of the names came about because of a name of a building built along its path. In 1659 the name was changed to Calle Colón in honor of Cristóbal Colón. The other names for this street were Calle del Gobierno, Calle del Palacio, Calle de la Capitanía General and Calle del Convento de Los Jesuitas. Finally, the the street returned to its original historical name, Calle las Damas. The name remains to this day.
Visit Calle Las Damas
Strolling down Calle las Damas makes for a nice walk. Not much traffic passes on the stone path. You will be surrounded by beautifully restored buildings on both sides of the street. While walking you can almost feel like you are among the privileged people from times past that used to take their afternoon stroll along this historical street of the colony. It is a must visit here in the Colonial City.
Some of the monuments you can see and / or visit along this street include The Fortaleza Ozama, Panteón Nacional and make sure to stop and take a rest in the beautiful Plaza María De Toledo or Plaza Pellerano Castro, lovingly called Parque Rosado.
Calle las Damas runs North and South from Plaza España to the Malecon ending with the long and hidden Stairs of Las Damas/ Escaleras de las Damas (The stairs connect the Malecon to Calle las Damas at Plaza/ Park Pellerano Castro.
The fusion of three different colonial houses come together to form the Casa Reales. Originally built in 1508 it is now the home of a very informative museum explaining the rich history of this island and the country of Dominican Republic. It also houses a collection of weapons once owned by the Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.
The original house, built in 1508, was a property of the treasurer Cristóbal de Santa Clara. A few years later it was confiscated for debts and became the property of the of the crown.
The Casa de Contratación, an adjacent property, was built in the year 1504 and became the residence of the Governor or Captain General of the island.
In the 1520s
the space between these two buildings was filled and the 3 buildings became one, a palace dedicated to La Real Audiencia de Santo Domingo / The Royal Audience of Santo Domingo.
The original three buildings were occupied by el Gobernador / Governor, Presidente de la Real Audiencia / President of the Royal Audience and El Capitán General / Captain General. By the end of the 1500s the three buildings were put together because all the offices were held by the same person.
This building was home to the government palace until the Trujillo Era when the new Government Palace was built. Then President Joaquín Balaguer restored the building and converted the buildings into a Historical Museum.
The arched gothic style windows on the second floor was where the Royal Court was held. It gave a perfect view of the Sun Dial in the plaza. This is how the court knew the correct time to write on the official documents.
Casa Reales Museo was created by President Balaguer and opened to the public on October 18, 1973. The museum is dedicated to everything related to the periods of discovery, conquest and colonization of the island and its relationship with the rest of the American continent.
This powerful building has many beautiful architectural styles. The huge ground floor windows keep the buildings fresh by letting the cool breezes flow through its luxurious stone and coral walls.
There is a replica of a colonial courtroom and many exhibits in the museum including the coat of arms of Spain.
Underneath the stone staircase is a large globe of the world with a horse on his hind lags ready to leap. Here is written in Latin: Non sufficit orbis (The world is not large enough).
The museum also houses Trujillo’s weapons collection.
The beautiful interior courtyards are perfect for taking a breath of fresh air. The statue of Fray Alonso de Zuazohold looms in thge center of one of the pation and also you just might spot a peacock or two strutting around the large beautiful interior patio.
Location, Hours and Cost
: Calle las Damas and the beginning of Las Mercedes The Plaza del Reloj Sol is in front and it is connected to Plaza España. Phone: 809-682-4202.
Entrance to the museum (2016) RD$20 for adults and RD$20 for children.
Iglesia y El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Church and Fort of Santa Barbara
Iglesia de Santa Bárbara / Church of Santa Barbara
The Iglesia and Fuerte of Santa Barbara is one of the oldest churches built within a fort in the colonial period. It is a UNESCO World Historical Site. The church and fort were originally built separately. The church was constructed in 1537 and the fort was built later because the location was very strategic for the protection of the city of Santo Domingo.
The church is a single long building with five distinct sections, as can be seen from the outside of the building. The original church building was made of royal palm. Later, in 1537, it was rebuilt in stone. The blocks were quarried from this very site as were the stone blocks for many monuments and buildings of the era.
The interior of the church has eight distinct chapels each are from very distinct and are from different eras.
The building has been damaged many times throughout its history. Both the Fuerte and Iglesia were heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1591. Then earthquakes in 1673 and 1684 did extensive damage to the Iglesia. The Pirate Francis Drake did severe damage to the church when he invaded the island in 1586. Each time the church was repaired something new was added to the structure. It is interesting to note that the ceiling of this historical monument is still covered with the original bricks.
The Iglesia Santa Barbara boasts to be the place where Juan Pablo Duarte, The Father of the Nation, was baptized on February 14, 1813.
Interesting stories surrounding the Iglesia and Fort
There are many crypts under the church that recently have been discovered. There are also bones in the walls and a newly discovered cemetery in the Plaza surrounding the church.
“Las Vírgenes de Galindo” / “The Virgins of Galindo” – Three young sisters and their father were massacred in 1822 by Haitian invading forces. – Cesar Nicolás Penson said in his works “Cosas Añejas”
El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Fort of Santa Barbara
The Fort of Santa Barbara is the only fort with a church inside. The church was built first and later when the fort was built both structures were incorporated together. This is a very unique thing to have a fort and church entwined. The bunker for the fort is attached to the church.
The city of Santo Domingo was a walled city but the north section of the city did not have walls built until 1686. Building the fort in this furthest section of the city was an important step in the fortification of the city.
This fort was part of the third stage of protection for the city. Construction began in the early 1540’s and the final phase was completed in the early 1700’s. It was designed by an Italian builder and a Spanish stone cutter. The fort and church, as with most of the Spanish settlement, was built by slave labor by African and the Indigenous island dwellers.
The end of the 17th century brought constant attacks to all the Antilles Islands. This fort was a bunker facing the mouth of the river Ozama thus giving it an excellent view of the entry port. It was a very strategic location for the strength of the city of Santo Domingo.
Santa Barbara Today
The barrio of Santa Barbara where the fort and church are located is a good place to visit. It is a typical Dominican barrio that has a small town feel. There are some great art works and graffiti covering the walls of many of the buildings. Many of these buildings are in need of repair and are abandoned but the art work on many of these buildings is incredible.
The church is in disrepair but they are working 24 hours daily to restore the beauty of the church and fort. There are metal bars holding up the outside wall. It has been under renovation for many years and still the work is not completed.
Here is a picture that was taken February 17, 2019 of the renovation work being done. It is looking great.
If you visit Santa Barbara make sure to climb up the ramp to the top of the shooting wall of the Fuerte Santa Barbara. The wall is lined with cannons. The catwalk along the wall is usually grown up with weeds and the side towards the river is blocked off. There is a very nice view of the and the Rio Ozama from the top of the fort wall.
: From Calle el Conde go south up Calle Isabel la Católica or Calle Arzobispo Meriño (both of these streets lead to this monument). Walk about 6 blocks almost to Av. Mella at the far end of the walled city, Colonial Zone.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas
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