Casa Doña Bisa – A Wonderful Surprise
After seeing a photo of the Casa Doña Bisa (or the San Sebastian Museum of History), I had to see it in person. I am so glad we did! It is one of the prettiest and well preserved houses I have seen in Puerto Rico. The fact that they offer a free, bilingual guided tour, with docents in period costumes was the topping on the cake. It is really worth the trip!
Located right on the town square of the town of San Sebastian, this grand house still commands respect. The original smaller house of the Rabell family was built in the same area. Don Manuel Rodríguez Cabrero, who was the last mayor of San Sebastian appointed by the Spanish regime, lived here with his wife, Violante Rabell. The original house was destroyed by fire in 1906.
After receiving a large inheritance, Violante decided to build this grand house on the property. Constructed from 1915 to 1917, it was designed to be a marvel of the time — 4 stories tall, made of concrete, with electricity and indoor plumbing. It was called the Rodrigues/Rabell house. Their daughter, Doña María Luisa Rodríguez, inherited the house in 1945 and lived there until 1967. It was passed down through the family until the town of San Sebastian bought the house in 2008.
Doña María Luisa Rodríguez was very active in town politics and town matters. She was much loved by the local residents, and she would sit almost everyday on the porches or parlor and welcome people into the house to spend time with her and enjoy the cool breezes that run through the home. She was so friendly to everyone. She was known by all in town by her nickname Doña Bisa.
When the town of San Sebastian obtained the house, it was in disrepair. After 5 years of much effort and money, the house was restored to its former glory and became the Historical Museum of San Sebastián, informally called Casa Doña Bisa in her honor.
The town really has spared no expense, they even have a number of docents (Ashley is amazing and 100% bilingual) to take you around the house and explain everything. The main floor of the house is set up as it would have been when initially built. The rooms have period furniture and design pieces from 1850-1920 and there are bilingual information plaques outside each room. Everything is really nicely set up.
The architecture is really impressive. The ornamentation, woodwork, and flooring are beautiful. The kitchen and bathroom are something to see! There is one room set up as an art gallery, another with information on the history of the house. Upstairs is the history museum part — from pre-Columbus artifacts to the history of the town. So much information (most in Spanish, but the docent can help translate). You can also go to the outside areas and upstairs for some amazing views of the town square.
This really was one of the nicest restored houses/museums I have seen in Puerto Rico. I highly recommend a visit. Located right on the town plaza, there are other museums and the murals along Paseo September 24. Ask the docent about that if you don’t read Spanish — it was interesting! San Sebastian offers a lot of other great things … their tourism office is very active, .and you can contact them on Facebook!
Tours of the house and museum are free.
They are open Friday to Sunday, from 10am to 4pm. No reservation needed.
Allow 1 to 2 hours to tour the home and museum.
You can call them at 787-896-2300 for more information.
The Museo Historia Casa Doña Bisa is located at 2-8 Cll Luis Muñoz Rivera in San Sebastián. There is parking just in front of the home, at the town plaza.
Click on a placename below to view the location on Google Maps ...
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