Old San Juan is also the home of one of the narrowest houses in the world. It is called La Casa Estrecha, and it is located at 101 Tetuan Street (Calle Tetuan). You cannot miss it since its bright yellow color makes it stand-out. The house is in the Guinness Book of Records.
There are 12 Narrowest Homes in the World and this is one of them. Sometimes its designation is that it is the narrowest.
La Casa Estrecha in Old San Juan has taken the meaning of coziness to a different level.
From the outside it measured 5’4″. But, from the interior walls it is only 5 feet wide. It has 2 stories high and it stretches 36 feet back.
Everyone asks about the origin of “The Narrow House.”® This is the answer to this question, which was consulted with Puerto Rican scholar Ricardo Alegría as per its current owner architect Antonio J. Alvarez-Garriga.
Mr. Alvarez told me that when the city of Old San Juan was created back in the XVI century, the habitants of back then had to follow the construction guidelines of the cities in the new world. These guidelines were established in the “Cartas De Las Indias,” which stipulated that the cities were built in a perpendicular street layout like a checkerboard. These streets would delimit the blocks that would be built and the ones that would be left to make plazas. In the beginning the solars of the blocks were distributed to the villagers and left in charge for them to build. Therefore, the villagers begun to build their houses in these solars but then, they only built one or two bays (divisions of space according to the structural walls). These constructions were developed from the inside of the blocks. In consequence, the center of the blocks was left free of construction and formed a grand indoor patio, common to the structures that surrounded it.
This grand indoor patio served for the neighbors to plant or raise chickens or pigs, and also as a horse stable. In order to go in and out of the patio, they had to leave a space or hallway in between the street and the grand indoor patio, without there having to go through the structures. This was an access to the patio.
But when the neighbors became more prosperous and their families grew, they continued to amplify their houses, building the common indoor patio of the block until the moment comes that this patio disappears and the hallway is not needed anymore. Some of these hallways were absorbed by the adjacent buildings and nowadays there isn’t any left overs from them. Others kept their individuality and were were enjoyed, as their roofs were built, for other’s use like “The Narrow House.”
View of San Juan Bay from La Casa Estrecha’s balcony. Priceless!
For Hours La Casa Estrecha is open call 787-396-5620