San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Granada Family Rebuilds Colonial Jewel

It’s been 10 months since a torrential downpour washed away a large chunk of Roberto Sánchez’s elegant colonial-style adobe home in downtown Granada.

But if you strolled by his house today, you’d have no idea that an entire upper story room and the ceiling and walls of the rooms below were left lying in the street in a muddy pile. His renovated house looks just like it did before the avalanche.

Igualito, like a carbon copy,” Sánchez said in his raspy voice.

The Granada native hired local architect Lucia Lara to restore the house, but she couldn’t get started immediately, due to persistently heavy rains that continued through the rest of last year’s rainy season. The collapse occurred on Sept. 17 – Sánchez remembers the date like a loved one’s funeral.

“The rain penetrated that adobe,” Sánchez said, pointing at the 30-foot-high ceiling in his restored home.

When the rains slowed, Lara went to work on a reconstruction project that turned into a race against the clock. The longer it took, the longer Sánchez and his wife would be without a roof as the next rainy season approached.

Lara used concrete blocks to rebuild the crumbled adobe walls. Rebuilding the place with concrete was a quicker fix than an adobe reconstruction, which would have meant creating large adobe bricks and waiting for them to dry in the sun before reconstruction could begin – a model of construction seldom used anymore in Granada.

Then new walls were fortified with 30-foot pillars of concrete blocks lined with wood. Getting the concrete was a cinch, but the woodwork would be the most laborious part of the project, Lara said. But, she added, the new column supports are crucial to avoiding another collapse.

“They’re the new support of the structure of the house. It’s safer, really,” she said. Lara said the weak point of the home was the iron balconies, which received a pounding from the rain and were likely the cause of the collapse.

So, as part of reconstruction, she rebuilt the two balconies with concrete and supported them with the concrete columns. The two new balconies look exactly the same as the two original balconies that remained intact. Sánchez recently gave The Nica Times a tour of his newly remodeled house with the glowing pride of a general introducing his battalion after surviving an onslaught.

He said he feels safer with the new concrete columns supporting his gargantuan, golden-colored home, which is one of the few colonial homes in downtown Granada with two stories.

After recalling the apocalyptic day in which he was left without most of a roof – a collapse that was so loud it woke up neighbors several blocks away – he feels confident that his restored home was built to last.

“This house has been here for 100 years, and now it’ll be here for 100 more,” he said with a smile.


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