The Living Beginning
Dorado, el paraíso de Puerto Rico, was founded in 1842 under the name of San Antonio del Dorado. “Although quickly annexed to its neighboring municipality, Toa Alta, in 1902, it regained its autonomy in 1905”, the same year Dr. Alfred Livingston arrived to the island. Astonished by the beauty offered in the tropical spaces of Dorado, the doctor purchased 1,700 acres of land in the area close to the Atlantic Ocean, Mata Redonda.
For years, Livingston’s effect on the economic aspect of the town revolved around his Hacienda, where he cultivated and exported grapefruits and coconuts. The doctor also provided housing for all his workers and their families, “a free medical clinic” for the town, and “was one of the founders of the first school in the area”¹.
After Alfred’s death in 1923, his daughter Clara Livingston, acquired the managing position of the plantation. During her years with the land, Clara further developed her love for aviation by becoming the 100th licensed female pilot and 11th female helicopter pilot. In 1926, the aviator built the Dorado Airport where she imparted flying lessons until selling the plantation to Laurence Rockefeller in the 50’s era due to the monetary increase in production costs and travel prices.
“I want to capitalize with the frontiers of natural beauty, making sure to never damage them. It will take time and money to reach this agreement between man and nature between protecting beauty and structuring the installations- but it will surely worth the while.”²
An Ecological Luxury
After buying the land, conservationist, Laurence Rockefeller decided to build a hotel that could “make the most of the land’s natural characteristics while providing tranquility and privacy for the guests”. Construction of Puerto Rico’s RockResort began in 1955 with Harmon Goldstone, O’kelly Méndez, Bob Newline, and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. as contractors and architects claiming only 65 acres of the land for the hotel and 232 acres for the golf course. In 1958, the Dorado Beach Hotel was inaugurated with an elegant dinner featuring millionaire friends of Rockefeller, also recognized as the “fabulous 150”. For years after, the Hotel’s guests ranged from famous actors to important political characters, becoming the “most ecologic and luxurious resort of the Caribbean”.
In order to develop a complete usage of the 1,700 acres, in 1957, Rockefeller hired german architect Henry Klumb who proposed the construction of the Dorado Beach Estates. The “resort residential community”, for either permanent residence or second home, was the first phase of development at Dorado Beach; it also presented a plan for the growth of a horticultural space close to the airport “so as to not interfere with the aerial activities”.
A Rocky and a Pritz’ Walk Into a Hotel…
Throughout the years, Dorado Beach Hotel and Estates turned the town of Dorado into a golf haven which produced an increase in upscale tourism, positively affecting the socio-economic growth in the area. At the beginning of the 70’s era, a new RockResort began construction. Preparing the second phase of the Dorado Beach development, with architects Toro and Ferrer involved, The Cerromar Beach Hotel used 700 acres of the land and included a new golf course. Nonetheless, in 1973 Rockefeller “sold all his stocks to Eastern Airlines, Inc.”, where he worked as a director and principal stockholder. From there on the land was divided and sold to other companies and associations until “the land was no longer part of the Dorado Beach resort”.
In 1985, the entrepreneur-philanthropist family, Pritzker, “acquired all the stocks of the Dorado Beach Hotel Corporation” and so, the era of the Hyatt Hotel began. “Operating both Dorado Beach and Cerromar Beach resort properties”, the Mediterranean appeal and organic spaces of the Dorado Beach acres were kept in shape until the second closing of the hotel in 2007.
Donde La Vida es Bella: Su Casa (images of Dorado pueblo)
Traced by the rivers Cocal, Lajas, and de La Plata, the town of Dorado has been recognized as “Ciudad Ejemplar” and “La Ciudad Más Limpia de Puerto Rico” due to a variety of extensive programs that maintain the natural and public areas clean. The continuous flow of education, employment, and tourism, the manufacturing of clothing and medical equipment along with the hotel industry have taken their places as the highest bidders of economic influence. Thus, positioning the resort town of Dorado as an extended part of the metropolitan area with some of the island’s most important championship golf courses.
(When the Dorado Beach Resort was inaugurated, Rockefeller hired Ed Dudley as golf pro. Dudley’s assistant was no other than golf legend Chichi Rodríguez, who with Rockefeller’s support became golf pro for Dorado.)
In 2012, “family-owned” company PRISA Group’s Federico and Friedel Stubbe along with General Manager of Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Alejandro Helbing presented the inauguration of a new hotel. Providing once again employment and formalizing a focus on the tourism of the island, the Ritz-Carlton Reserve at Dorado Beach Resort positioned Dorado as:
“the Great Park of the Caribbean” ³
Through the years that brought a change of management and ownership in the hotels, Clara Livingston’s “Spanish hacienda” still stands. As a way of honoring the architectural heritage of the area, during the Rockefeller era, Su Casa was used as the golfers clubhouse and through the Hyatt, it played the role of a restaurant. Now, the hacienda is once again used as a residence containing the “top four suites” of the Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
“su casa” images, property of http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/puerto-rico/dorado-beach
¹Citation found in book Un Sueño Dorado by Astrid Díaz and Michael Thomas Walsh
²Quote found in article Los Inquilinos del Lujo by Samantha Díaz Roberts for Magacín (http://www.magacin.com/2015/06/04/los-inquilinos-del-lujo-2/)
³In an interview with elite traveler, Friedel Stubbe contemplated the town of Dorado as the “Great Park of the Caribbean” analyzing that “all the great communities are built around great parks” like Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York. (http://www.elitetraveler.com/leaders-in-luxury/friedel-federico-stubbe-and-alejandro-helbing)