The Lonja del Comercio, in the Historic Center of Havana, is one of the most striking buildings in the San Francisco de Asis Square.
The former Trading Market. In 1907 the economic activities in Cuba had grown in such a way that the Trading Market was created in Havana, constituted as a corporation. It was decided then to construct a building for such tasks, with a project by the Valencian architect and sculptor Tomas Mur, winner of the competition called for this purpose, and who had the collaboration of the Cuban architect Jose Toraya Sicre. The work was carried out by the American company Purdy & Henderson, also author of the National Bank of Cuba and the Asturian Center of Havana (present Museum of Fine Arts). The building was built in front of the San Francisco de Asis Square, and occupied a small block of 2,370 square meters on which they built five floors with a total area of 11,871 square meters. It was built as a common place of meeting of merchants and owners, because in that area was located the Goods Market, founded in 1878 near the Customs, where the merchants examined products and agreed prices. The building is of steel structure with mezzanines and reinforced concrete ceilings. In the front concrete blocks of cement were used produced by the Cuban Concrete Co. The interiors were decorated with a clear Moorish influence and facades with a marked Renaissance and eclectic style, in which appear ornaments similar to those of the columns of the Palace of the Lordship in Florence, Italy. In its exterior decoration stands out a varied profusion of motifs related to the activity of commerce: caduceus, horns of abundance and human figures in an attitude of concertation. The ground floor was destined to warehouses and bags, the second floor to offices, the third to trading operations, and the four and five were rented to customs agents and importing houses. It has a dome with a beautiful bronze reproduction of the God of Commerce “Mercury”, the work of the Italian sculptor Juan de Bologna, disciple and friend of Michelangelo, one of the prominent figures of the Italian Renaissance. The stubborn Habanero Mercury has resisted the attacks, not only of time but of nature, and has been the victim, on more than one occasion, of the whipping of the cyclones. It was there for 90 years until, on October 14th, 1999, the force of Hurricane Irene broke its supporting base and rolled it to the base of the dome, fragmenting it into several pieces. Restored, it was returned to its centennial seat, but this time on a rotating mechanism that allows it to oscillate and offer less resistance to the force of the winds. The building of the Trading Market was inaugurated on March 28th, 1909. Subsequently, in 1939, another floor was added, maintaining its essential attributes.
Lonja del Comercio, The Modern Trading Market.
In the nineties of the twentieth century, the Office of the Historian of Havana, associated with the Spanish Banking Corporation “Argentaria” joined forces to recover the old building and restore it for commercial activity. Architectural and engineering projects were carried out by the Spanish firms Eduardo Villegas, Javier Gonzalez de Adalid and SERELAND, and Cuban architect Orestes del Castillo served as the faculty director. Works began in March 1995 and were completed on 31 July 1996. Much of the original was preserved, although some changes had to be introduced to technologically upgrade the facility, which now has about 10,000 square meters for offices. The tenants have several services such as cafeteria, bar, international telemail and a multifunctional hall. The building has an attic on the top floor, separated from the facade with double glazed walls; a dome-shaped central atrium, topped by Mercury, re-emerged after 90 years. There are traffic galleries around it, two blocks of sanitary services on each floor and two emergency stairs. Four panoramic lifts were also installed. To complement the services of the modernized building, the five-storey Casteleiro and Vizoso building was rehabilitated, now converted into a 165-fence parking lot, where are also located water tanks, the pumping system, the transforming substation, general slate for electrical distribution and air conditioning control. The building has been provided with “smart” services. A computer controls air conditioning, lighting of common areas, detection and extinguishing of fires, as well as the presence of intruders in controlled areas. Its current use is the leasing of spaces such as offices to commercial firms based in Cuba.