The streets of Havana are lined with the crumbling remains of the city’s iconic mid-century architecture. In the fading glory of the Riviera, the Hilton and the Hotel Nacional, visitors to Cuba today can catch a glimpse into the city’s past as a playground for celebrities, mobsters and high-rollers.
Once owned by mobster Santo Trafficante, Jr. the Hotel Capri, where Nation travelers stay while in Havana, is a great example of the architecture from this era. The property opened in November 1957, but only operated for two years before the Cuban revolution. It is said that the hotel’s manager at the time, actor George Raft personally tried to stop revolutionaries from entering the property on New Year’s Eve,1959. After the revolution, the Capri was transformed into a hotel for visiting dignitaries before falling into disrepair, and eventually being abandoned, after an explosion did extensive damage to the lobby.
Fortunately for architecture and history buffs alike, the Capri was restored in the early 2000s and is now owned by the state-run tourism company Grupo Caribe, and operated by the Spanish hotel chain NH. Today, visitors get a glimpse into what the place was like in the property’s heyday. The hotel’s iconic logo remains, mid-century style furniture fills the lobby, the Salon Rojo nightclub remains next door, and visitors can enjoy the roof deck pool with its stunning ocean views – albeit without its famous glass floor.
Havana is truly unique and immersing oneself in the wonderful mid-century architecture scattered throughout town is one way to appreciate the city’s colorful and complex past.