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Pay a visit to a magical museum that'll ferry you back to Varadero's past

Remarkable archetypes of wooden architecture can still be found in Varadero; the famous Cuban beach resort. One of them; built between 1920 and 1921, houses the Museo Municipal de Varadero (Varadero's Municipal Museum) since 5th December, 1981. Since its opening the museum exhibits a collection of important pieces related to the resort's history.

Pay a visit to a magical museum that'll ferry you back to Varadero's past

It might be because I love history, but this museum is living proof of the fact that even natural sites such as the long Varadero beach, have their own stories to tell. When staying in Varadereo for a week or two, if you manage to tear yourself away from the sand and have some time to spare; I strongly suggest you visit this museum. It's one of those places which, as if by magic, transfers you to another time, thus enabling you to season up your beach holiday without too much effort, since the museum is not a huge one too cover neither is it too far from the beach resorts (it's right next to the Barcelo Solymar and the Palma Real as well as adjacent to the Retiro Josone park).

The Beatles Bar and Restaurant
Address: Playa Avenue, between 57th and 58th streets, close to Retiro Josone Park.
Opening Hours: 0Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM
Entry price: 1 CUC; but if you wish to take photos or record videos, you are required to pay an additional 2 CUC. A guide service in various languages is available at the price of 5 CUC.
Recommended for: Ideal for family visits and for those who love history and architecture.
Not to be missed: The unparalleled view of the beach from the gallery on the top floor; especially at dusk, nor must you overlook the exceptional early 20th century furniture.

The museum safeguards and displays valuable pieces related to Varadero's history and traditions. Its collection includes items ranging from the aboriginal period to modern times, representing the region's flora and fauna (marine and land) and also evidencing the rowing regattas; Varadero's most popular sporting event. You'll also enjoy the showroom exhibiting fine oil paintings, antique furniture, and early 20th century decorative objets d' art, suggesting the lifestyle of the time in places like this.

Varadero; a piece of rediscovered paradise

More than 100 years ago, when Varadero was still only a virginal piece of paradise, many bungalow-style wooden houses began to be built along its beach strip. This wooden architectural style had reached the island from the south of the USA, and was mostly used in seaside resorts and for sugar mill outbuildings.

In Varadero's case, these bungalow-style houses started being built by outstanding Cuban and Spanish architects, artisans and craftsmen during the second half of the 19th century and the early 1900s; shortly after the town's foundation in 1887. Their construction was commissioned by rich landowners and merchants from Cardenas, Matanzas, Havana and other parts of the island. These new houses would serve as summertime dwellings for the wealthy and noble during the scorching summer months.

As time went by, many of these extraordinary wooden models disappeared, giving way to modern guest houses and hotels. Nevertheless, major fine examples of wooden architecture still stand in the so-called historic or Old Varadero.

This is where I recommend you visit one of these fine examples; the one that now houses the Museo Municipal de Varadero since December 5th, 1981.

The construction of the house, now museum

On 16th October, 1920, engineer Leopoldo G. Abreu ordered the construction of the house in the privileged area where it now stands; within the resort of Varadero. A year later and building process over, Abreu and his wife Amalia Caragol y Fernandez, were able to start enjoying their new summer house.

Abreu; the house's original owner, was born in 1875, in Cienfuegos; a city on Cuba's southern coast. Having begun his studies in France, he finished his engineering career in the USA. Abreu afterwards worked as Chief Engineer in the Cardenas Department of Public Works, between 1905 and 1906.

The house was constructed over pillars of prime quality stone piles. The walls in both stories feature double lining. Their construction was devised to include thin built-in strips of wood placed horizontally and coated with stucco - a mixture of sand, concrete, lime and plaster; thus providing favourable thermal conditions in its interior.

While searching in archives and libraries, I've been able to discover that the design of the walls corresponds with the direction of the wind, and that each and every one of its rooms, was built to facilitate adequate ventilation. A sort of continuous balcony surrounds the building's main structure. Don't forget to climb up the top floor for an incredible view of the beach. The house's roof is made of Cuban tile, covering a wooden joist structure under which a dormer window is located.

The house's exterior design is simple, with delicate lines in-keeping with the rest of the construction. Its original design included a belvedere or vantage point in the top floor, which was considered a contribution to the architectonic style of the construction. Unfortunately, this structure disappeared with the 1933 hurricane and tsunami, which just about destroyed Cardenas and Varadero.

Purposes which the house has served

Aside from private dwelling, this house has been used as office, lodge and warehouse. It wasn't until 1981; after some intensive restoration work and an extensive search and recovery of valuable time pieces, that the museum was opened.

In May 1992, due to the deterioration of its structure, the museum was closed. It was then that Varadero's governing body and the Cuban Film Industry Institute intervened to carry out the new phase of its restoration. Fortunately, a fair part of a film titled Azul indigo (Indigo Blue); a joint French-Cuban production which premiered in 1997, was to be filmed in this site.

Since then, Leopoldo G. Abreu's ancient wooden house has been visited by hundreds of Cuban and foreign tourists, who have all been positively impressed by the historic and architectural values preserved in this remarkable example of wooden construction from the early 1900s. You, your family, and your friends; will surely be pleasantly impressed as well.

Ernesto Alvarez

Ernesto Alvarez

Passionate Historian

Being the author of The History of Tourism in Varadero and a resident there, Ernesto hoards an...

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