Historical research and documentation of the grounds and gardens of La Casa Blanca, San Juan De Puerto Rico

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Maldonado-Torres, Joaquin
Vernon, Noel Dorsey
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Thesis (M.L.A.)
Department of Landscape Architecture
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La Casa Blanca (The White House) is the old fortress house of Juan Ponce de Leon’s family, located in the city of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico also known as Old San Juan. The house was originally built in the early 1500s as one of the first permanent constructions on the islet of San Juan. Both the house and its grounds have undergone several physical changes through their almost 500 years of existence. The house (which today is a museum) has been restored and documented, including the surrounding buildings which were built during the 17th and 18th Centuries and which form the Casa Blanca building complex.Today several garden areas exist on the grounds of Casa Blanca. These gardens have the potential to enhance the site more than they do presently, not only in the aesthetic experience that the visitor to Casa Blanca could have because of the beauty of the place, but also in the experience of history and legend associated with Juan Ponce de Leon.Lamentably, with the possible exception of the Hispano-Moorish garden located next to the central patio of Casa Blanca, the remaining garden areas have not been formally documented for purposes of correct design development or so that the visitor may appreciate and understand their history. In this creative project the author has documented all the information available on Casa Blanca and its gardens from written sources, plans, and from oral interviews obtained in Puerto Rico and the United States.The original intent of the author was not only to document the gardens and grounds of Casa Blanca, but also to create a restoration/rehabilitation design for the best use of this area. This scheme would be in accordance with their historic, legendary, and aesthetic relationship to Casa Blanca and Old San Juan as part of the total cultural heritage of Puerto Rico. Instead, this research of Casa Blanca's gardens' history in itself became the focus of the creative project due to the large amount of time and effort necessary to locate and compile the information. A rehabilitation design plan was not possible in the time frame for this project. However, this investigation opened new areas of study, as it dealt with the overall unrecorded garden history of Puerto Rico which was essential to document before a restoration/rehabilitation plan could be made. The author hopes that this study, as the first documentation of a Puerto Rican garden, will initiate the recording of the total garden history of Puerto Rico.