San Carlos Institute

In September 1998, Hurricane Georges damaged the San Carlos Institute located in the Historic District of Key West, Florida. This historic building was designed, in 1924, by renowned Cuban architect Francisco CenturiĆ³n to commemorate the location where, in 1871, Jose Marti united the Cuban exile groups in their efforts to free Cuba from Spanish rule.

The building was used at that time as a museum / art gallery and library of Cuban historical memorabilia, an active theater and school.

After the hurricane our architectural firm, Chael, Cooper and Associates, was hired to manage the hurricane restoration. We were selected not only because of our historic preservation background but also because of our extensive hurricane repair and restoration work from previous hurricanes including Hurricane Andrew.

As the principal architect I reexamined the initial investigation and report by the FEMA inspectors and determined that the estimated repair budget was about half of the amount needed to complete the work on the building. After submitting an updated report, FEMA adjusted the repair budget accordingly.

The restoration work involved:

  • Reroofing the entire building
  • Concrete restoration and structural repair
  • Replacing the large exterior doors to the theater which were originally to be opened for cross ventilation when first designed and built
  • Repair/repainting of water damaged interior plaster and tile work
  • Repair of selected windows and skylight
  • Correction of drainage problems caused by the storm
  • Refinishing the water damaged theater stage
  • Repainting the total exterior walls to match forensically discovered original colors of the building.

All of this work was completed while the building remained in operation. The project was completed on the estimated time schedule and on budget. The owner received a building with all defects resolved within the Secretary of States Guidelines for Historic Preservation and with the concurrence of the Florida Historic Preservation Department.