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Castillo del Morro

San Juan, Puerto Rico

2006 Q2

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This month’s limited edition print of a sketch by Ladd P. Ehlinger is of the battlement walls of Castillo del Morro facing the sea in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Morro” means headland in Spanish, so this fort (castillo) is on the headland at the entrance to the harbor of San Juan, one of the finest natural harbors in the world. A headland is a high promontory of land that acts as the gateway to a harbor. The port of Havana in Cuba also has a “Morro” with a Castillo.

The construction of Castillo del Morro was begun almost immediately by the Spanish upon occupying Puerto Rico in 1515. Numerous engineers and architects worked on this facility as well as the other fort guarding the land side of the city until the Spanish American war, when Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States in 1898.

The writer worked on the archeology investigations that were performed by the University of Florida Archeology Department in the summer of 1961, while employed as a Student Assistant Architect in the Historical American Building Survey program of the U. S. National Park Service that manages and conserves the forts. Digs were performed in various areas of the forts and were recorded with sketches and photo- graphs. Numerous arti facts were unearthed that gave much information about the various periods of the fort’s occupation and occu- pants over the centuries.

The walls of the fort are up to 40 feet thick and hundreds of feet high. They are constructed of a stone outer facing that was stuccoed, with rubble infill. The stone blocks were mortared together with a portland cement based mortar. The top surfaces were paved with a plaster that was made from re-fired crushed brick that also functioned like a Portland cement based matrix that is very dense and waterproof. The writer had the privilege of working with the historic drawings and specifications in Spanish.

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