Hotel Palacio O’Farrill, located on a corner in Old Havana, near the picturesque Bay of Havana and Cathedral Square, is a perfect example of neoclassical architecture, in vogue at the dawn of the 19th century. This mansion, awar
ded a Class 1 Heritage Degree, has recently been extensively restored and refurbished by the City Historian’s Office. It is a Palace converted into a Hotel: an authentic corner of Old Havana that prides itself on the level of personal service offered to all guests. The hotel has retained the name “Palacio O’Farrill” as a tribute to its earlier owners.
Don Ricardo O’Farrill and O’Daly, whose family came from County Longford in Ireland, was a wealthy merchant who made his fortune from the notoriously lucrative slave trade. He was also the owner of several sugar
mills. Don Ricardo arrived in Havana in the early 18th century and is attributed as the founder of the O’Farrill family in Cuba, which subsequently went on to gain a reputation for its notable performance in administration, commerce and in the country’s cultural development. They were further distinguished by a plethora of titles of the nobility.
As time went by, the O’Farrills became involved in different aspects of Cuban
society: Nicolas Calvo de la Puerta y O’Farrill, a distinguished academic and Doctor of Theology at the Pontifical University of San Jeronimo, who introduced improvements in sugar
cane production and promoted the Sociedad Patriotica (Patriotic Club) in collaboration with Alexander Humboldt. Juan Montalvo y O’Farrill owned the first steamship used in Cuba. Jose Ricardo and Rafael O’Farrill and Herrera were listed among the 18 most influential and richest people in Havana under the rule of Spanish Governor Miguel Tacon. Others played important roles in the army, commerce and music, and in various government offices.
Two splendid mansions in Old Havana perpetuate the memory of the O’Farrill family. One, on the corner of Habana and Chacon streets, was acquired by the Church and up until recently was the site of the Archbishop of Havana’s office. The other, on the corner of Cuba and Chacon streets, built in the first half of the 19th century by Jose Ricardo O’Farrill y O’Farrill, Don Ricardo’s great grandson, underwent some architectural changes in the 20th century, resulting in the building as it stands today.
Subsequent to the O’Farrill family, the latter-mentioned mansion housed several other important institutions: the Property Register, the Supreme Court and Attorney’s Office, the Justice Secretariat and the Lawyers College. It also contained the Public Works Special Funding office, a section of the Treasury Department responsible for the registration of motor vehicles.
Traces of the building’s 18th, 19th and 20th century architecture, plus the decoration and ambience of each floor in accordance with these centuries, bring an unique fusion of the past and the present that makes it a place where one longs to return.