Also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina this is the only structure in the western hemisphere still in use since its construction in the 16th century. This was the first fortification built by the Spaniards in San Juan Harbor. Constructed between 1533 and 1540 the original fort consisted of a circular tower and four massive stone walls.
At the end of the 16th century the Spaniards added the Austral, a second tower to defend against Carib raiders. Invaders only were able to capture the fort twice in the history. The first time the fort was taken was in 1598 by the English then again in 1625. In 1625 the Dutch were unsuccessful in their siege against San Felipe del Morro so they burned the city including the fort.
From 1640 onward it was customary for the island's Governor to utilize the fort as a personal residence. In 1846, La Fortaleza was enlarged and the street facade was altered. The original tower was named Torre del Homenaje (tower of Homage) still stands. The name reflects the tradition of the resident Governor climbing to the top of the tower to pledge an oath of loyalty and courage to the island during dangerous times,
While the island was under Spanish rule the fort was designated the Spanish Captain-General of Puerto Pico's official residence but after transition to being a US territory the building became the official residence and offices of Puerto Rico's Governor.
The fort was added to the UNESCO's World Heritage Site list in 1983 and has free guided tours of both the indoor and garden areas. . Call 787-721-7000, extension 2211 or 2323 for details on schedules and reservations.
La Fortaleza, a National Historic Landmark, is located within the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Friday. Call 787-729-6960 or visit the park's website for more information. La Fortaleza has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey