Our last installment ended at Hotel Nacional. While not Art Deco, the hotel has much to recommend it, including a very good breakfast buffet and a beautiful ocean view. The Nacional has history too, having hosted mobsters, politicians and actors. I leave it to you to decide how many categories that makes.
Leaving the Nacional, there is Art Deco in all directions. Well, except behind the hotel where you will find the Straits of Florida. If you stand with your back to the hotel (you’re facing south), 2-3 blocks to your left is the College of Architects at the corner of Humbolt & 104 Street. I confess I’ve never been inside because I always seem to get there on a Sunday but it has a terrific spiral staircase and lots of glass block. The inside looks like a lobby in Miami Beach, which isn’t very far away.
Speaking of spiral staircases, if you exit the Hotel Nacional and walk directly across the street, you’ll come to the Cuervo-Rubio apartments. The floor plan is a series of doughnuts and from the lobby, you can see all the way to the roof, or vice versa. It’s difficult to explain but very dramatic.
The building is also home to what must be the most photographed staircase in Cuba. Be sure to take your best shot.
The third way to exit the Nacional, to your right, takes you to Edificio Lopez Serrano, Havana’s most impressive Art Deco apartment building (#108 – 13th Street at L Street). There’s a great looking Casa Particular here but the name escapes me.
From here, I would head south to Cementario Colon, stopping along the way at the Catalina Lasa mansion, now known as Casa de la Amistad, at #406 Paseo between 17th & 19th. Check before you go to make sure it’s open because you’ll want to see the inside, which is Art Deco, not the outside, which isn’t. Paseo is also home to the Hilda Saara residence, at 19th Street, with yet another spectacular staircase. Neither of these homes is currently a private residence however the Saara house is used by a government agency and may or may not allow photos.
South of the Lasa house lies the cemetary. Despite it’s manageable size, there are wonderful monuments in all styles including some Art Deco and a few Egyptian Revival.
The cemetary makes a good landmark because roughly across from it’s northwestern corner you’ll find the charming Edificio Triangulo apartments at the corner of Calle 20 and 23rd Street. Next, hidden behind some bushes is the Emilio Vasconcelos house at #1208 – 21st Street. Finally, there is the tiny, streamlined Mercedes L. Navarro house at #1656 – 23rd Street.
Of course there’s much more and if you’ve made these stops, you’ll have passed a lot of it. Avenidas 21, 31, 41, Linea, Paseo are all great. At the very least, we’ve spent a full day. Next stop, Miramar and Kholy.