UTSA architecture professor advises restoration project of Hemingway’s Cuban home


Ethan Pham, The Paisano

Gaige Davila

Ethan Pham, The Paisano
Ethan Pham, The Paisano

UTSA architecture professor William Dupont, M.Arch will be leading a technical team of architects and preservationists in advising and organizing a new restoration initiative at Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Cuba, the Finca Vigia or “Lookout Farm.”

Hemingway lived in the Finca Vigia from 1939 to 1960, writing The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls and numerous short stories during his time there. After Hemingway’s death in 1961, his widow deeded the property to the Cuban government where it became a museum dedicated to the late writer’s life.

Dupont and his team will be assisting Cuban architects and preservationists in the planning and construction of a building that will hold conservation labs and an archival storage facility housing many of Hemingway’s belongings, documents and artifacts (when not on display).

This restoration initiative is a continuation of a collaboration between Dupont, the Finca Vigia Foundation, and the Cuban government since 2005. Additionally, Dupont and his team are also organizing the exportation of infrastructure materials for the new facility, making it the first building to be constructed with materials made in the U.S. since the 1950’s.

“Our work shows that collaboration [between the U.S. and Cuba] is possible, and can be successful,” Dupont said.

President Obama’s recent visit to Havana opened up diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and Cuba, allowing easier access for individuals who wish to travel to the country, and alleviated restrictions on business between the former adversaries.

“Our work is supporting the access for scholars and people that want to better understand [Hemingway’s legacy].”

Cristina Gonzalez,Dupont’s graduate assistant, conducts product specification for the team, researching and compiling materials to export to Cuba.

“At the beginning, I wasn’t aware of the importance of the project,” Gonzalez said. “I started learning more when I started working [for Professor Dupont],” she continues, “It’s a huge step; I feel very lucky to be a part of the project.”

Four shipments of various infrastructure materials, including doors, windows, wiring, tiles, roofing materials, air conditioning, heating, venting and lab equipment will be shipped to San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, where Finca Vigia is located.

Construction has already commenced on the new building, where a frame has been built and now awaits the first shipment of materials in May of this year.

The building will be a part of a longer conservation initiative that Dupont and his technical team will continue to assist Cuban professionals with.

“Hemingway’s work is tremendously important, and access to his places of creative inspiration should be available to all people to see,” Dupont said.

“Preserving his legacy so that can keep happening is very important.”