The early 1900s sparked the establishment of the La Alameda sector of Quito as a new and upcoming real estate development center for the upper class that wished to escape from the Historic Center of the city. The neoclassical mansion that would eventually become La Casona D’Alameda Boutique and later Hotel Casona Durini, in homage to the great architect Francisco Durini Cáceres and his entire family.
The House was commissioned by Dr. Antonio Sáenz Marino to the Italian-Swiss architect: Francisco Durini Cáceres.
Durini’s design consisted of an ornate neoclassical two-story house with Italian design for the facades and the interior architectural details. The architect utilized the privileged location of the property, situated in front of the south entrance of La Alameda Park, to design one of the most essential aspects of the building: the lodge on the second floor. The lodge includes a covered balcony with numerous corbels and allows the interior rooms to open up towards the outside of the street.
The ground floor sits on a stone padded base around five large porticos. The central one, wider than the four lateral ones, serves as the entrance towards the interior of the building by means of a long corridor with a mosaic floor, while the others are entryways into commercial premises. The upper floor includes semi-circular arches that open up into the spacious main lodge, which is adorned with Corinthian columns and elaborate carpentry details. The arches end with a great cornice that supports an elegant balustrade, which surrounds the third-floor terrace.
Inside the mansion, Durini maintained an Andalusian style with the rooms and halls surrounding the central courtyard, as was customary in the buildings of the Historic Center. The courtyard was originally covered by a metal and glass structure on the first floor, while the second level galleries were closed off by wooden and glass screens. Access to the second floor are provided by stairs located on each side of the hallways around the courtyard.
Due to the irregularity of the medians of the property, the lateral bays have an inclination that extends towards the interior, but in general Durini tried to maintain the visual effect of rectitude and uniformity. Two symmetrical turrets on each side crown the front body of the mansion but face towards the patio so that they cannot be fully appreciated from the street. Through such towers, one can access the magnificent third-floor terrace.
The ascending inclination of the land, combined with the depth of the lot, allowed Durini to design the back garden at two distinct heights, one at half elevation from the street level and another at the elevation of the second-floor galleries. Taking advantage of this unique characteristic, the architect engineered a rear façade. The so-called “Yellow Room” that has a glass bow window, opens up onto this patio facing the rear façade, flanked by two semicircular stairs that descend down towards the garden.
For the final touches, Dr. Antonio Saenz ordered decorations that reflected typical elements of that time period, yet commodities that would have been difficult to obtain for people of the middle and lower class. Such products include French brass painted ceilings, cement tiles, hardwood floors for the living rooms and bedrooms, and terrazzo floors for the stairs.
After many years in which the house was in the hands of politicians, military personnel, and businessmen, the house was put up for sale in 2009. The buyers were the Morán Baldeón family, who had been looking to acquire a heritage property to reside in that was located in the Historic Center to transform in a boutique Hotel in Old town Quito.
After a few years in Spain where his love for architecture was awakened, Diego, along with his sister Belén, and his parents Germán and Fanny, managed to negotiate the purchase and acquirement of Dr. Sáenz Merino’s neoclassical mansion in 2015. The bureaucratic processes of approval for their plans took about two years, and the following restoration which sought to recover the original details of the house took an additional year.
During the restoration of this boutique hotel in old town Quito some items were found that attracted the attention of the Morán Baldeón family, including animal bones and a pair of shoes with the soles completely worn. The shoes led the family to wonder what the living conditions were like for those people who inhabited the property before they had acquired it.
There were additionally two truly surprising findings, the first being a piece of paper that contained the data of an inmate at “Police Station No. 1”, which led to the discovery of a forgotten period in which the house served as a police headquarters. In that day, the mansion sporadically housed some minor prisoners for a short period of time. Today, that space is used as a room to store wines.
The second finding was sketches of the arches of the lodge and the facade, and details of the city made with waxed pencil, located on the wall of what used to be one of the ballrooms, today converted into the Amazon Suite. The drawings’ purpose was almost certainly so that the workers in charge of building and beautifying these arches could do it properly because after a comparison of the calligraphic features in some of the numbers, it was determined that the sketches were made by Francisio Durini Cáceres himself. These details portray for the first time a style of the architect that until today, was unknown.
The furniture for the different areas of the hotel is in the style of Louis XV, inspired by the furnishing that the Morán Baldeó family used to have in their home, but in a more modern design. The furniture was manufactured by skilled craftsmen from San Antonio de Ibarra, known for their technique learned in the esteemed Quito school.
Adopting the name La Casona D’Alameda Boutique Hotel old town Quito, this family tourism project opened in May 2019, offering nine elegantly decorated, exclusive suites, each inspired by a major tourist attraction in Ecuador. La Casona D’Alameda offers rooms such as the Galapagos Suite, the Amazon Suite, the Chocolate Suite, the Orchid Suite, the Roses Suite, the Cotopaxi Suite, the Montecristi Suite, the Otavalo Suite, and the Mitad del Mundo Suite. The hotel contains an exquisite back garden and magnificent terraces for solace and rest, as well as a roofed central courtyard that is the perfect place for meals and relaxing, or events such as weddings and parties.
In 2021, after a global pandemic, where tourism was one of the worst hit sectors and this boutique hotel was no exception, it received the visit of the North American professor and researcher Paul Baumann and his wife, Professor Ángel Baumann. Professors and researchers have traveled Central and South America for about 5 years gathering information about Durini architects, among their main works are; mauseleums, buildings, monuments, among others.
Due to the importance of the Durini family and in particular for the city of Quito, it is that the owners of the Boutique Hotel Casona D’Alameda and thanks to the visit of professors Paul and Angel Baumann, in the month of September, the month of heritage, the name of the Architect Francisco Durini Cáceres will be immortalized in this city through one of his most beautiful works, La Casona Durini.
Hector López Molina – losladrillosdequito.com
Diego Morán Baldeón (Update september, 2021)