Residencia Armstrong-Poventud – A Valuable Historic Landmark

Built in 1899, the Armstrong-Poventud House, also known as the Armstrong-Toro House or Casa de las Cariatides, is a superb example of the distinctive architecture used in the Historic Zone of Ponce in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The house was designed and built by Puerto Rican architect Manuel Victor Domenech for the influential Armstrong-Toro family, becoming a style that would be replicated by other wealthy homeowners at the time. It is located in the town square, opposite the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, as well as having served as the headquarters for the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP).

The original owner of the house, Mr. Armstrong-Toro, was One of Puerto Rico’s first bankers, founding the Banco Crédito y Ahorro Ponceño and the Banco de Ponce. He set up international banking ties with Cuba, the United States and Denmark, earning the prestigious “Danabru Order” of Denmark, as well as being named as Danish Consul to Puerto Rico. Although Manuel Victor Domenech designed other prominent buildings in San Juan, Ponce and Mayaguez, the Armstrong-Proventud house is considered unique in that it was one of the architect’s first creations in that particular style, with ornamental details and its main entrance being framed by carytids – female shaped columns reminiscent of ancient Greece. Other distinctive features of the house include complexly carved hardwood doors, decorative wrought iron railings, a stained-glass fanlight, and arches detailed in the ionic pilaster style. Roman-style amphorae above each pilaster on the parapet serve as finialls for each bay-style division of the façade of the house. The interior of the house features parquet flooring and ceilings of decorative pressed metal which have been hand-painted.

The Armstrong-Toro family lived in the house for around eighty years before it was bought by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Some of the original furniture, pictures, paintings and other personal items belonging to the original owners remain in the house, and although it was renovated in the 1980s and again in 2008, great care was taken to retain the historicity of the Residencia Armstrong-Poventud – a valuable landmark in the Historic Zone of Ponce.