The Dominican Republic is home to many landmarks of worldwide cultural and historical significance. We’ll explore these in a four-part series. We begin our monumental exploration in the city of Montechristi.
Travelers driving the 70 miles (115 km) from the city of Santiago to Montecristi will find an unpretentious town offering history, nature and some of the best snorkeling and diving adventures in the country. Few people know that this seemingly laid-back city, founded by Nicolás de Ovando in 1501, and named San Fernando de Montecristi after King Ferdinand of Spain, is where the country’s first aqueduct, railroad, and telephones were installed.
In its heyday, the northwestern port of Montecristi was a magnet for immigrants from Europe, the US, and South America who worked with Dominicans to set up businesses to export wood and agricultural products that were grown in the region. Montecristi even can boast that a native son, Juan Isidro Jimenez, was the President of the Dominican Republic in 1899 and 1911. The iconic symbol of Montecristi is the towering mesa, El Morro, which rises abruptly from the sea.
Reloj de Montechristi (The Clock Tower)
The clock tower in the town square was designed by French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower-fame. The clock itself was built by famous French clockmaker Jean-Paul Garnier and shipped to Montecristi during the city’s glory days in the late 19th century. Once it arrived by sea to the Dominican Republic, it was then transported by train to its original place, Duarte Park (Old Square). The inauguration on June 29, 1895, was attended by the Dominican Generalissimo Máximo Gómez and Cuban apostle José Martí, who said: “This clock will soon time of redemption of Cuba”.
Iglesia San Fernando (Church of San Fernando)
At one end of the town square you will find the historic church with striking stained glass windows and belfry surrounding an ornate mahogany altar. Eighteen historic houses, most in Victorian-style of the 19th and early 20th century, surround the attractive town square.
Villa Doña Emilia
The Villa of Dona Emilia was the house of the wealthy Dona Emilia, the sister of early Dominican President Juan Isidro Jiménez. Dona Emilia exported Campeche trees that were used to make hair dye in Europe, a very sought after resource. Her house, or rather mansion, is French; and not just in style. The villa was actually built in France and then later relocated to its current spot in 1895. One block from the town square, Villa Doña Emilia is currently under renovation and just one of several Victorian-style houses still standing in downtown Montecristi.
Stay tuned. Next week, we’ll explore La Churcha & La Inmaculada Concepción Cathedral.