The Watch

Central Aguirre Historic District

Aguirre, Puerto Rico, United States

The Central Aguirre is a former company town in the southern municipality of Salinas, Puerto Rico, developed by an American company following the 1898 Hispanic American War. Between 1899 and 1964, the company town grew around a pre-existing nineteenth-century sugar mill and hacienda to become the second largest sugar mill complex in the island. The extensive facility featured administrative, factory, and warehouse buildings, as well as a wharf and rail yard used to transport the processed sugar around the island and the world. Surrounding the industrial complex were residences and supporting facilities such as plazas, schools, churches, a post office, a movie house, a hotel, and more, that made it a self-sustaining town. Over 400 cultural resources in Central Aguirre survive today in various stages of deterioration brought on by aging and insufficient resources for maintenance, which was significantly exacerbated by the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

The residential area in Central Aguirre was mainly composed of wooden houses with corrugated metal roofs, divided into two sections. The residences built for the American administrators are large wooden cottages with decorative features sitting on expansive landscaped lawns. The section known as Montesoria contains the workers’ residences, featuring modest wooden and concrete houses.

Central Aguirre Historic District is included on the 2020 World Monuments Watch to bring attention to the plight facing historic wooden structures in Puerto Rico and their communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The high cost of materials, preservation standards, and the lack of specialized workers in wood construction is a major burden to residents. The State Historic Preservation Office in Puerto Rico is committed to providing opportunities for training in traditional wooden construction methods for carpenters and residents. In building the necessary capacity to address this kind of historic structure within and beyond Central Aguirre, the initiative aims to improve resilience and economic opportunities on the island. World Monuments Fund will collaborate with the SHPO and local NGOs to implement this training initiative.

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