Backstory and Context
The Beneficencia Building (Asilo de Beneficencia) was the first large-scale building constructed in the Ballajá Quarter of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Initially proposed in 1838, construction began in 1841 to provide a general establishment for public welfare. The facility opened in 1844 and completed in 1848. During its first years, the building housed the mentally ill, inmates, orphans, and other dependent or needy persons. The original one-story building was organized around two courts formed by an E-floor plan. The wings allowed for separation of genders while the central wing housed the entrance, chapel, administrative offices, and workshops. The second floor was expanded in 1896-97 when the entire façade was redesigned in the Neoclassical-style. In 1929, the U.S Army took possession of the building. During the ensuing decade, the floor tiles, ceilings, and wooden stairways were removed and replaced with reinforced concrete. In November 1978 the U.S. General Services Administration transferred the building to the Government of Puerto Rico through the Historic Surplus Properties Program. The building was rehabilitated during the early 1990s and presently houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013, the Beneficencia Building is a contributing resource to the Old San Juan National Historic Landmark District.