Stay at Alfiz Hotel Boutique and enjoy an immersive experience into Cartagena's rich history! The 300-year-old house, which has been restored into a charming boutique hotel, has many stories within its walls. Extensive research led to the discovery of exciting details about the house's former owners: a French bootlegger during the Independence, the British Consul Mr. Edward Watts, and some well-known merchants.
The full story of the house of Alfiz Hotel and the historical references used in our brief review can be found in a book available to our guests at the reception.
Since colonial times, the building was a "casa alta" (high house) that predominates in this quarter. It is known that most of the buildings were of this type, because of their importance and use. Located near the port, the first floor was usually used as a warehouse or shop and the second was intended for rooms.
This house was probably built in the late seventeenth century and keeps the typical characteristics of this epoch. The spacious high-ceilinged entryway leads to a small lobby and staircase, and there is a small balcony on the upper level. The front rooms on the ground floor keep the original arches and interiors used in the past as warehouse or depot.
Continuing into the courtyard in the center of the house, you can find the cistern or tank used to keep rainwater to drink during the dry season. Today it is transformed into our cloistered dining room "El Aljibe". In the backyard, there is an open kitchen and servant's rooms with a spiral staircase that climbs to the "mirador" on the top of the roof.
The block where the property is located is already shown on the first maps known of the city. It's located on the most relevant quarter, where the Spanish colonization began, close to important buildings like the Casa de los Oficiales Reales (house of royal officers), the Cathedral of Cartagena, and the Cabildo or Governor´s house, which is the seat of the regional administration of the Bolivar Department today.
The neighborhood was formerly named la Catedral (the cathedral) and emerged from the union of the la Merced, San Sebastián and Santa Catalina quarters, with the house belonging to the Santa Catalina quarter.
Its location has been very relevant through the years because of the proximity to the old port, the Inquisition Palace, the Plaza Mayor and Plaza del Mar squares, known today as Plaza Bolivar and Plaza de la Aduana respectively.
The name of the street was formerly "Calle de Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados" (Our Lady of the homeless), virgin patron of Valencia in Spain. During Independence, it was replaced by "Cochera del Gobernador" (the Governor´s carriage depot street), probably because of the proximity to the Governor´s palace and the use of the house.
This house has been witness to the lives of several people that occupied it. They are part of the stories we want to share with our guests as another testimony of the exciting history of this city.
The first record
In the late eighteenth century, the house was owned by a French citizen and merchant named Jean D'Anglade, married to Rosa Guerra. There are numerous references in the archives that show the richness of this family. They owned several houses in the city in addition to the hacienda San José de Cospique. Apparently engaged in buying and selling properties, we found his name on various documents that show a feverish commercial activity, but also slave trade and smuggling.
The Consul's house
In January 1824, the British Consul Mr. Edward Watts reached Cartagena with the purpose of promoting trade relations between UK and this port, after the weakness of the Spanish administration.
He settled down in two houses on Cochera del Gobernador street turning to Candilejo street.
The Consul supported the independence process led by Bolivar, who visited him during his last stay in the city, offering a miniaturist portrait painted by the Italian artist Meucci as a gift. This portrait was used in 1831 as an ornament during the funeral that the city made in honor of Bolivar´s memory.
Consul Watts was an outstanding member of the city's aristocracy. There are numerous references made by English chroniclers and officers in their travel diaries of the years 1820 to 1830 in which they emphasize the friendly and hospitable attitude of Mr. Watts. He was forced to leave the city in 1833 as he was accused of intervening in the internal affairs of Colombia.
When he left the country, his son George Burghalt Watts assumed as Vice Consul and took over the house. He married in 1838 to Juliana de Porras.
The next generation
In the census of 1851 from the Cathedral quarter on page 13 we can read: "family of George B Watts that includes among its children a boy named Tomas, son, single, age 6, free".
Thomas B. Watts and Porras was born in Cartagena in 1845, and according to a deed of 1883 stored in the historical records of the city, bought "for himself and his family two tall houses adjacent to the accessory one side ruined stone tile wood .. . located on Cochera del Gobernador street ... from his mother by an amount of six thousand pesos."
The scenes described in García Márquez's book, "Love in the Time of Cholera", are not immune to the tragedy that is unveiled from the death certificate of the wife of Mr. Tomas who died in 1892 leaving five minor children "after an illness that deprived her of life ".
The hardware store
In 1912, Tomas B. Watts died and the house went to auction on August 22, 1913, two years before the trading company Franco Covo & Co.. bought the adjoining house to move its hardware store and who finally round off the house that went for 7.800 "american gold pesos at 4.30 pm."
Since the end of 1800 in the houses had been established different kinds of shops like the pharmacy of Mr. Dionisio Araujo, a bar and the renowned FrancoCovo & Co hardware store that permanently announced new arrivals of imported products in the local newspapers.
At the same time, the building of the Andean Corporation was built in the neighborhood that required the demolition of a house called "the island", because it was the largest that existed in the old city.
After a full-scale restoration process supervised by architects and engineers from Cartagena, and supported by a deep historical research, it has been possible to go back and recover the origins of this house.
In the house of Alfiz, each object has its own name, its own space and air. Even light has its niches, shadow its corners and moments his memories ...
We were fortunate to have recovered fantastic artifacts during the restoration process, including cannonballs, an amphora top, pottery, old iron nails and even skeletal remains, pieces that tells of its fascinating past and that in turn only serve to show that you are in a house where you can "dream with the history".
Cartagena's Old Town is the inspiration for the settings in many of renowned Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels. Find your way to its historic streets in Love in the Time of Cholera, Of Love and Other Demons and more.
Discover Garcia Marquez's writing at Alfiz Hotel Boutique's expansive library, which boasts more than 200 of his works in various languages.