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The History of the Casa Paoli

History and restoration of our headquarters, Casa Paoli


Casa Paoli is owned by and headquarters of, the Puerto Rican Folkloric Research Center, Inc. In addition, it was the headquarters in Ponce of the Puerto Rican Commission for the Celebration of the Fifth Centennial of the Discovery of America and Puerto Rico; of the Historical Preservation Society of Puerto Rico and the Educational Improvement Team. It is also the headquarters of the Friends of the Center-Casa Paoli Society. Since 2009, it is included in the National Registry of Historic Places of Puerto Rico and the USA.


In 1987, the Center acquired the Casa Paoli, thanks to the spirit of solidarity of Jaime Jordán Conesa and Antonio Penna Salicrup and their family.


Casa Paoli, in addition to being the birthplace of the great tenor, was the home of his sister Olivia, who married the prominent journalist and autonomist leader Mario Braschi Rodríguez (1840-1891), who took over this property from his parents after their siblings became independent. Olivia raised nine children, including the prominent journalist Juan Braschi. It was also in this house that Mario Braschi died in the arms of the great Puerto Rican statesman Luis Muñoz Rivera. Upon the death of her husband, Olivia shared her duties as a mother with her responsibilities as founding leader of the Feminist League. She taught in her own house and those confined in the women's prison that was located in El Castillo, today the Ponce School of Fine Arts. At different times the Braschi-Paoli residence was visited by important figures in the country: the statesman Román Baldorioty de Castro, the newspaperman Ramón Marín, the composer Eugenio Astol, and the sociologist and political figure José Celso Barbosa, among others.


In addition, it was the residence of the great tenor's parents: Domenico [Domingo] Paoli Marcanttetti Ramolino, from Corsica and Amalia Marcano Intriago, from the Isla de Margarita in Venezuela—and their children: Olivia, María Josefa, Carlos, Manuel, Amalia, Domingo , Rosarito, Antonio and María Hortensia. Amalia Paoli was the sister of the tenor who was at his side the longest. She abandoned her successful mezzo-soprano career to take care of her brother Antonio's voice. Manuel was a great government official; he was secretary to his brothers Antonio and Amalia. He was also the author of many of the press releases and chronicles about Antonio that were published in the country's press in 1922.  Carlos, another of his brothers, stood out as a military deputy governor in the Philippines. The site known today as the Casa Paoli had the distinction of bringing together members of one of the country's most outstanding families.


The Casa Paoli underwent several modifications, in its structure, over the years. In 1850 it was a "wooden house covered in shingles (AGPR, Notarial Protocols, Ponce, 97 ° 6-2334 and 96-J-2208). By 1860, the Tenor's parents built a:


"... house of upper and lower stories, made of wood and masonry, with a bathroom, kitchen, a toilet with a masonry well, ..." (AGPR, Notarial Protocols, Ponce 97-J-2359 and 96-L- 2221)

In 1908, after the house was abandoned, the upper floor, which was made of wood, collapsed and Gustavo R. Neumann Negrón acquired it at public auction.


In 1914, Manuel Domenech (1873-1942) designed the current building for Julio Salicrup. The Center restored in 1992 the building that Domenech redesigned and that we know today as the Casa Paoli, under the direction of Professor Néstor Murray-Irizarry, with the advice of Dr. Ricardo E. Alegria and Architect Pablo Ojeda O'Neill . Its official opening was on September 12, 1992 with an attendance of more than three thousand people from all over the country.


The restoration of Casa Paoli at that time was due to the financial contribution of the Honorable Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Commission for the Celebration of the Fifth Centennial of the Discovery of America and Puerto Rico, the Ponce en Marcha Program and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.


In 2018, it was necessary to make a restoration of the façade of the old building, mostly using donations that were collected through the Friends of Casa Paoli Committee in New York. The artists Juan Núñez and Omar Ortiz took charge of the restoration, gracefully at the beginning of the works and later with remuneration. We deeply appreciate the collaboration of several Friends residing in the USA: Nancy B. True, Freebbie Rivera, William Cumpiano, Nitza Tufiño, Mildred Allen, among others.


The earthquake of January 6 and 7 and May 2, 2020 caused significant damage to the historic structure, particularly in the walls of its interior that affected public safety. Bearing in mind this situation, as in 2018, it had to be closed to visitors; but without interrupting the scheduled tasks, many of which were carried out outside the headquarters of the Center.

Nestor Murray - Irizarry

July 2020

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Ponce's Calle Mayor
in the late nineteenth century.


Antonio Paoli's birth house is at the end of the street.

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north street, Ponce

Photographed in the late nineteenth century.


Commerce Street of Ponce
Photograph in the late nineteenth century,

the time of Antonio Paoli


As we found it in 1986.


1987-Restoration of the Casa Paoli. Observe the conditions of the patio and part of the restoration process of the gallery.


View of the Restored Gallery.

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1987-Restoration of the Casa Paoli. Observe the conditions of the patio and part of the restoration process of the gallery.

Photographs taken in 1986 of the condition in which the two main rooms of the Paoli House were found. Photographs by Nelson García Santos

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View of the Restored Gallery.

See a sample of the woodcut engravings by the artist-engraver Ana Emmanuelli exhibited in 2019.

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