Rare photo from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection shows historic Cuban lighthouse in its original design
June 13, 2011
Last year, we acquired and digitized the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection, an invaluable collection of photographic images of Cuba in the 19th and 20th century. To accentuate this collection, we featured a guest article by the donor himself, where he reflects on the collection and his personal interests in collecting historical photographs from Cuba. We continue to highlight Mr. Pohrt’s collection below by featuring one very special photograph of the Faro de Villanueva lighthouse in the Bay of Cienfuegos.
This article was written by Ana Rodriguez, CHC Metadata Assistant.
The Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection contains a series of albumen prints of Cuban lighthouses and views. Among these is a photo album of lighthouses and views of Cuba from the 1850s, presumed to be taken by the studio of C.D. Fredricks in Cuba. One of these photos which depicts the Faro de Villanueva lighthouse, located at Punta de los Colorados in the Bay of Cienfuegos. According to Spanish historian Miguel Angel Sánchez Terry in his Faros españoles de ultramar (link to IBISweb record), this lighthouse was commissioned in 1846, and Punta de los Colorados was selected for its construction due to the quality of the land which was formed by solid rock. On March 16, 1851 the newspaper Gaceta de La Habana announced the completion of its construction. A casa de mampostería (house made of bricks) was added to the lighthouse around 1866 and served as the residence for two torreros (lighthouse keepers) and their families.
In the photo of the Faro de Villanueva, the lighthouse is shown to have an almost square structure, which was, at first, puzzling to me when I was creating the metadata; another photo that I found of this lighthouse, on a website created by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled “Lighthouses of Cuba” (link), shows the lighthouse having a circular shape. But as we learn from the blurb given on that page as well as Sánchez Terry, the square shaped lighthouse was torn down by the American vessels “Morehead” and “Winsdlow” on May 11, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.
Faro de Villanueva was later rebuilt, but instead of replicating the original square shape, it was given a circular shape. The new Faro de Villanueva tower was inaugurated in 1901, and according to Sánchez Terry, it has been renovated several times. The latest update dating to 1969, when electricity was incorporated to the tower. This photograph from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection, however, is believed to be one of the few taken of its original square design.
Faro de Villanueva, Bay of Cienfuegos, with the original square shaped design. From “Photo album of lighthouses and views of Cuba,” Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection. Link to digital collection.
Gaceta de la Habana announces the construction of the lighthouse on March 16, 1851. Link to IBISweb record.
Blueprint of the lighthouse featuring the casa de mamposterías, 1878. Credit to Sánchez Terry, M. A. 1992. Faros españoles de ultramar. Madrid: Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. Link to IBISweb record.
The lighthouse in its current state, 1990s. Credit to Rowlett, R. September 28, 2009. Cienfuegos Province Lighthouses. In Lighthouses of Cuba. Retrieved from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Web Site.
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