August 8, 1863: Demolition of the walls of Havana. Beginning of the urbanization process in demolished areas.
1874: Doña Josefa Pesta, Marquise of Villalba, acquires, through the Real Estate, a land located in the Solar No. 1, block 20, of the old wall.
February 21, 1879: The wealthy Don Gregorio Palacios y Perez, native of Santander, signed a contract to build a building on the lot corresponding to Solar No. 1, block 20, of the old wall, bought to the Marquise of Villalba.
February 18, 1881: Don Gregorio Palacios and Pérez demands the contractors of the property because they did not finish the building in the agreed period of time.
1888 (finals): The complaint between Don Gregorio Palacios and Perez and the contractors comes to end. The property is finished with a distribution of three floors: the first as a store and tobacco warehouse, the second for housing and the third as a hotel or guest house.
1904: Don Gregorio Palacios and Perez passes away and leaves the house in inheritance to his sister.
1904: Don Gregorio Palacios y Pérez’s sister dies. Her sons inherit the building.
1911 : The building becomes the Hotel Gran Alcázar.
1933: The property changes its name to Hotel Saratoga.
Decades from the 30s to the 50s: Hotel Saratoga becomes more and more popular. Important tourist guides name it as one of the best accommodations in Havana. The terrace of the hotel, known as Los Aires Libres, gathers the best and most select Cuban musical talents during night time. The canopy of the building becomes the headquarters of Radio García Serra, where important musicians from the island sang and performed live.
1935: The Spanish writers Rafael Alberti and Maria Teresa Leon stay at the Saratoga.
1947: The exotic American dancer Patricia Schmidt, known by her artistic name, Satira, stays at the hotel. During her time in the capital, murders her lover, also American.
Decade of 60: The revolutionary government intervenes the property. It starts to function as a neighborhood building.
1998: The Provincial Directorate of Physical Planning and Architecture of Havana City includes the Saratoga in the list of important hotels to restore for the development of tourism in the capital.
2001: Work begins on the restoration and remodeling of the building, leaded by Cuban architect Abiel San Miguel Estévez, general designer; the Saratoga Palace Hotel S.A., an investment company, and the construction company Mercurio Restauración.
November 2005: Re-opening of the Hotel Saratoga with five-star plus category.
2006: The major British tourism magazine Condé Nast Traveler UK, in its Hot List, gives Saratoga the 24th among the 60 best Hotels in the World.
2008: British tourism magazine Condé Nast Traveler UK includes Saratoga on its Gold List in the Best Hotel for Environment and Design category.
2009 and 2010: The British tourism magazine Condé Nast Traveler UK places Saratoga among the top 20 in the Best Hotels category in America and the Caribbean.
April 7, 2013: Singer Beyoncé and her husband, producer and rapper Jay Z, stay at the hotel with some family members to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.
March 2016: The legendary rock band The Rolling Stones stay at the hotel on the occasion of the concert offered on March 26th at the Ciudad Deportiva.
August 15, 2016: The Queen of Pop, Madonna, stays at the Saratoga with her children, on the occasion of her 58th birthday.
April 7, 2017: Mohamed VI, King of Morocco, chooses the Saratoga to stay with his wife, children and entourage during his stay in Havana.
April 2017: Actor and singer Will Smith settles in the hotel on the occasion of International Jazz Day.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the wall of Havana began to be a hindrance to the development of the city, whose urbanization was growing fast. After several requests to the metropolis for demolition, it finally took place on August 8, 1863. From then on, a vertiginous expansion of construction took place, to a greater extent, of private initiatives.
Doña Josefa Pesta, marquise widow of Villalba, acquired the grounds of the Hotel Saratoga in 1874, through the Real Estate. Some time later Don Gregorio Palacios y Perez, a native of Santander and one of the wealthiest owners in Havana, bought the lot from the widow for the price of 17,700 pesos in Spanish gold. Already on February 21, 1879, Don Gregorio established a contract to build in Solar No. 1, block 20, corresponding to the lands of the old and already demolished wall (now Prado Street, Dragones corner).
Don Gregorio then agreed that, within 15 months, a building would be built on the land acquired, to the sum of 98,000 pesos in Spanish gold. The building was in the hands of the engineers Don Jose Fermin de Musquiz and Callejas (Cuba), and Don Adolfo Suarí and Tolch (Barcelona, Spain).
However, in 1881, when the deadline had expired, the building was not ready yet, so on February 18 Don Gregorio filed a complaint with the contractors to finish the work as soon as possible, having in mind he had already paid almost the entire sum agreed. This request would end up being rejected by the engineers, who demanded the payment of extra works and even damages caused before, during construction time.
The suit, finally, was to last until 1888, the year in which the building was finally conceived as a three-storey one. The low included a store and a tobacco warehouse, as well as zaguanes and entrance stairs to the four apartments located on the second one. The third would then work as hotel or guest house, with 43 rooms and a dining room.
The building responds to the "free neoclassical" style, which, at the end of the 19th century, began to become popular among Cuban constructions. Judging the area it occupies, the style and materials used for its construction (of the first order for that moment), it can be said with total certainty that the hotel constituted an ambitious enterprise within the Cuban colonial architectural framework.
Don Gregorio, his first owner, died in 1904. Since his sister and heir died that same year, the property passed to his nephews, who lived in the Spanish city of Santander. Thereafter, it is likely that they leased the building to someone else, who eventually turned it into a hotel. Its first name, to judge by a publication of the Diario de la Marina of 1911, was Gran Alcázar Hotel.
In fact, the first Hotel Saratoga was located in Monte street and corresponds to the building that currently occupies the Hotel Isla de Cuba. It was not until 1933 that the Great Alcazar changed its name to take that of Saratoga.
In the 30's of last century, the building, already understood as Hotel Saratoga, enjoyed great popularity. Already by 1935 the main tourist guides registered it as one of the most important in Havana. In addition to the excellent gastronomic services offered, its fame was mainly given by its strategic location. Given its proximity to the National Capitol, the building was visited daily by politicians and other influential personalities of the government.
On the other hand, its increasing popularity was also based on the different recreational activities that took place on its terrace, known as the Free Airs of Saratoga. In this place met the most select musical groups of the time, among them the orchestra Anacaona, first Cuban and Latin American grouping composed entirely by females.
In addition, the hotel's marquee was the headquarters for more than 20 years of the Radio García Serra station, where some of the most representative voices of the Cuban song, such as Celia Cruz, Elena Burke and the Matamoros Trio, paraded in due course. In addition, and as a curious fact, it was precisely in this station where the now classic Dos Gardenias, performed on the piano by its composer, Isolina Carrillo, and sung by Daniel Santos, premiered for the first time.
During this period, international personalities such as the Spanish writers Rafael Alberti and María Teresa León in 1935, or Patricia Schmidt, an exotic American dancer known as Satira, visited and stayed in the hotel. Actually, Satira shot and killed her lover during her stay in Havana.
The Hotel Saratoga maintained its popularity and vitality until the 60's, when it was intervened by the revolutionary government. From then on, it began to function as a neighborhood building, until it was vacated, years later, given the deplorable conditions of deterioration.
It was not until 1998 that the Provincial Directorate of Physical Planning and Architecture of Havana City took into account the Saratoga within its proposal of rescuing important buildings and hotels for the development of tourism in the capital. This one stood out not only for its architectural wealth, but also because it is located a few meters from the iconic National Capitol and also in front of the patrimonial Fountain of India or Noble Havana and the Park of the Fraternity.
It was in 2001 when work began on the restoration and remodeling of the building, led by the architect Abiel San Miguel Estévez, general designer; The Saratoga Palace Hotel S.A., an investment company, and the construction company Mercurio Restauración.
Given the level of deterioration of the construction it was not possible to recover any of its interior structure. Instead, it was necessary to design a new one, although the original facade was maintained, to which were added two new levels that maintained the design criterion of the rest of the building, except for the bars and balconies.
In November 2005 the new Hotel Saratoga was inaugurated, whose construction work had an investment cost of approximately 25 million dollars. With five-star plus category, the hotel has 96 rooms, two bars, two restaurants and a swimming pool, as well as parking, 24-hour reception, concierge, car rental, free wi-fi, business center, babysitting service, spa with massage service and steam baths.
On the other hand, the decor has a casual air. Each interior space has been customized to the point that no room is the same as another, either by the furniture, the colors or the materials used.
In the same way, another of the great attractions of the hotel is the swimming pool. Located on the terrace of the eighth floor, it offers not only the possibility of a cool and pleasant time, but also an almost panoramic view of the Cuban capital, which includes Old Havana, the bay and even pieces of the Caribbean Sea.
The Hotel Saratoga has been distinguished several times by the prestigious British magazine Condé Nast Traveler UK, one of the most important tourist publications worldwide. Barely a year after its re-inauguration it was placed in the Hot List of the year, occupying the number 24 between the 60 new best Hotels of the World. In 2008, it was also included in the Gold List in the category Best Hotel for Environment and Design (Best for Ambience & Design), while in 2009 and 2010 it was among the top 20 Best Hotels in America and the Caribbean.
Since its reinauguration in 2005, renowned international personalities have visited the hotel, including singer Beyoncé, her husband, producer and rapper Jay Z; and some family members, who stayed here in April 2013 to celebrate the couple's fifth wedding anniversary. In March 2016, just three years later, it was time for the members of the legendary rock n 'roll band The Rolling Stones, who stayed at Saratoga on the occasion of their concert, celebrated on March 26th at the Ciudad Deportiva. Only five months later, on August 15, the pop queen, Madonna, chose it to celebrate her 58th birthday in the company of her children. More here, on April 7, 2017, Mohamed VI, King of Morocco, also decided on the class and comfort of the Saratoga, where he would end up staying with his wife, children and entourage during a stay in Havana. At the end of that month, the American actor and singer Will Smith settled here, on the occasion of the International Jazz Day, an event in which took part as presenter.