Radio26.Cu – Matanzas, Cuba


Matanzas Firefighters Barracks: new image and centennial history

Gloria Machado León 21 marzo, 2018

The landscape of the Plaza de la Vigía is not seen the same since last January. Many Matanceros were surprised when they began to see the cars belonging to the fire department there.

Fortunately, the building that closed the Neoclassical architectural style in Cuba, Enrique Estrada Fire Station, undergoes a deep restoration that will provide greater functionality to the spaces of the operations area and the museum.

“From January 16 we started the first actions: we removed the letters to the name of the barracks and we must conclude before October, when the 325 anniversary of the city is celebrated. We were the last to join but our work rhythm allows us to meet the schedule without complications. We work every day, even Saturdays and Sundays.

“The repair has three different moments that are carried in unison because one does not affect the others. In the central room the roof was removed, channels and roof windows were changed, the granite floor was changed, with the purpose of exhibiting characteristics similar to those of its inauguration, in 1900, which explains the location of the trucks in front, “said Biolexis Ballester Quintana, director of the Firefighters Museum in Matanzas.

Advised by the specialists of the Architectural and Engineering Projects Company (EMPAI) of Matanzas, the Heritage Center and the Office of the City Curator, the construction group of the Ministry of the Interior executes restoration work to restore the property’s characteristics originals

“One of the most complex and important parts was the roof that was already replaced and the channels were changed. The floor of the technical room was completely replaced, we did not dedicate to the cleaning of the façade and then the priority will be the sixteen glass windows of this building “, affirmed Jesús Millares Domínguez, investor of the work.

“Most worrisome is the roof of the sides, an old roof that is covered in Californian pine slabs and beams. Also within the construction there were many additions in the courtyard and in the place where there was a park in 1900 where a large plaza was designed. “

The change of glassware and blacksmithing is also contemplated in the restoration project of the Fire Department, tasks that they assume with the collaboration of the Cultural Assets Fund and the Matanceros artisans, added Ballester Quintana.

“At the moment we have different kinds of crystals because in different stages there were solutions with the materials that were available. When the restoration is completed this will be solved for which the crystals will be dismantled, the blacksmith will be maintained, the crystals will be placed and uniform, the front windows will have reinforced glass.

“With the passing of the years some wooden doors were lost, as well as those of winding, and will be rescued with the support of the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets and the craftsmen, whose work will be vital to rescue also the six stained glass windows. The restoration is carried out from photographic images of the time. “

The reconstructive actions are developed with their workers in situ. The firefighters themselves are the protagonists of each process since the first demolition, on January 27.

“The wing where the offices and the Command are located requires deep work on the roof and during that period we will work in the other part of the building. The presence of the workers here is fundamental, as we believe. The firefighters work together with the builders. In this decision, the sense of belonging and commitment to this place is reaffirmed. “

Due to the restructuring of the Plaza de la Vigía as a pedestrian area, the result of the Matanzas 325 Plan projects, the exit of the fire trucks will be through the back of the building. In this way, the service will increase to all the services offered by the institution where, since 1998, the only museum of firefighters in Cuba has been operating.

The institution, the first of its kind in Cuba, shelters hundreds of museum treasures, among objects and documents belonging to the different stages of its history. During the tour through the three rooms of the Fire Station there are more than three thousand pieces of high value like the musical scores of his band, the original emblem of that Body and a cannon-thrower.

“When the restoration in the museum concludes, a new assembly will be exhibited to celebrate our 20th anniversary this year. Since 1998 the rescue work of the museum has been significant with more than 3 thousand pieces in storage.

“Our exhibition of steam pumps, which was previously on the side of this building, will be located at the front because the cars will be at the bottom. “As the exit will be now from the back, the additions will be eliminated so that they do not interrupt the passage of the firefighting technique that will continue to present services.

This will bring a different clarity to our institution. The main objective is for the population to visit us and be motivated to participate in all our proposals. We will develop social and community projects from here and the usual guided tours.

“The projects will allow a renewed image of the barracks, more functional. On the side there will be a square with a pergola similar to the original, we will also respect the vegetation. There we will develop our Circle of Interest and the usual activities. “

Inspired by neoclassical architecture, the Matanzas Fire Station is one of the most attractive buildings of its type in Cuba. Made in stonework by the engineer Bernardo de Granda y Calleja, the building is considered an exponent of military architecture.

The building dates from the beginning of the 20th century and is the only one of its kind preserved in the world because it treasures history and is the permanent headquarters of the provincial Command of that specialty.

“This is the last building that rises in the Plaza de la Vigía and closes the neoclassical style in the country. It is the oldest in Cuba, not because it was the first to be founded but because since August 12th, 1900, firefighters have this place as headquarters and museum, for the benefit of the city and the protection against fires.

“We are pleased with the fact of the simultaneous restoration, by the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets, of the Academy of Music, adjacent to our installation. There the Music Band will continue their rehearsals.

“We rejoice a lot because this Matanzas formation was born precisely from the Firefighters Music Band, the oldest in the country because it dates from 1856 and for us it is an honor to restore that property. In fact, their scores are stored in our premises to be returned when the reconstruction works are finished there. “

Those who visit this institution experience different emotions because they live the history with the singular attraction of the real demonstrations of its protagonists: the firemen.


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