In 1564, King Felipe II of Spain commissioned Fortaleza San Felipe to be built in Puerto Plata to protect the city’s citizens. Due to its location on a hill at the Puntilla Del Malecón with a perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean, it served to protect Puerto Plata from any pirate invasions. King Felipe II was a powerful monarch and during his reign Puerto Plata became an important silver and gold mining area of the island. The Dominican Republic was extremely popular and thus often preyed upon by pirates; hence the reason Fortaleza San Felipe was built.
Also known as El Morro de San Felipe, the actual construction time to build this fort lasted 13 long years. It was taken over by Mayor Don Rengifo de Anulo and finally finished in 1577.
Later, during the Quasi War or the Battle of Puerto Plata Harbor between 1798 and 1803, Fort San Felipe was again involved in protecting its city and its nation. It was a small battle in an undeclared war between the United States and France as a result of disagreements over treaties. During this battle, Fort San Felipe launched shots at the USS Constitution as it was trying to harass a French ship. Inevitably, the Spanish at the fort were overrun by the Americans.
Following the war, in approximately 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte, a founding father of the Dominican Republic was imprisoned here by General Pedro Santana. After Juan Pablo Duarte’s imprisonment, Fortaleza San Felipe was used to imprison many. In 1930, General Rafael Trujillo began his dictatorship and he also ensured that Fortaleza San Felipe continued to serve as a prison. General Trujillo would use secret police to arrest those he despised and left them in the prison. These were dark times for Dominicans and Haitians alike who share the island of Hispaniola.
Now, many years later, and after the Dominican Republic’s darkest days and much rehabilitation, this fortress serves as Puerto Plata’s historical museum for all to enjoy. Fort San Felipe became a fortress museum in 1965 and in 1972 it was closed for renovations and reopened to tourists in 1983. People from around the world tour Fort San Felipe to envelope themselves in its rich history. There is a long list of artifacts on display in the museum that date back to its inception. It is the oldest building in Puerto Plata as all the others were destroyed throughout time. Don’t miss this exceptional piece of history while vacationing in Puerto Plata.