Built by Spain to protect against land based attacks, Castillo de San Cristóbal originally wrapped around the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Beginning about 1539, several different fortifications were constructed on the hill known as San Cristóbal on the east side of the harbor entrance. The fort as we see it today was completed in 1783 and covered about 27 acres.
In 1897 after the English and Dutch interlopers were ejected from the island, about a third of the fortification was demolished to allow for the expansion of San Juan.
Chris and Michele, our friends from the Washington, DC area joined on this excursion. Chris, a military history buff, was able to provide insight on many of things we were seeing.
At various points the fortified walls have guerites or sentry boxes. Legend has it that soldiers randomly disappeared from various guerites, but especially from “The Devil’s Guertie.” Chris’s theory is that the soldiers would climb on the wall to relieve themselves and get blown off falling to their deaths on rocks and sea below, otherwise known by boaters as “the half-mast syndrome.”
Captured sailors drew pictures of their ships on the walls of the fort’s dungeons.
Executing drawings must have been difficult because light was barely pumped to the prisoners.
Flags of the United States, Puerto Rico and the Spanish Empire
On May 10, 1898, Castillo San Cristóbal's cannon batteries fired on the USS Yale thus marking Puerto Rico’s entry into the Spanish-American War. Six months later Puerto Rico became a US territory by terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Castillo San Cristóbal was still an active military base in 1942 when World War II began. Concrete pillboxes and an underground bunker control system were added to the fort’s defenses.
In 1961 the US Army abandoned the forts of Old San Jaun, and they entered the jurisdiction of the US National Park Service. In 1983 the San Juan National Historic Site was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.