Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
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Commanders' Houses -Indoors

Centenarian, testimony of diverse époques, and a fusion of architectonic languages…are the National Museum Commanders' Houses, which are open to the public after a hard restoration process that has transformed them into themselves by an exhibit that rescues the architectonic patrimonial beauty of the city of San José.


As of November 4, 2009 visitors get to roam the various internal ambiences and hallways of the two houses, which now hold an exposition with furniture, objects, and photographs from the Museum's History collection—some exhibited for the first time.

The Houses

Built between the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, throughout the years they were occupied for various reasons, and their original architecture was intervened in multiple occasions.

After being regular home dwellings, during the time of the Bellavista Barracks they became the homes of the First and Second Commanders, who lived there with their families.
Later, when the entire building was chosen to headquarter the National Museum, the houses were used by the Meteorological Service, and the Garden's Club. In the 1970's the two houses became offices for the Museum's Department of Anthropology and History until 2007, when this team of specialists moved into a new building at the Pavas Museum.

The walls show evidence of four expansions, where different construction technologies were used: galvanized iron-covered wood, mixed brick, a mixture of wood with expanded iron and plastering concrete, and the typical carpentry on wood.

The flooring also shows superimposed materials such as brick, clay tiles, and wood. The halls, open corridor, and central patio depict the look of dwellings of those days. Window frames, floors, and escutcheons show different styles: art nouveau, art deco, and eclectic.


More than 80 objects, among them furniture, ornaments, and domestic utensils, and 30 antique photographs embellish the elegant ambiences of a living room, a studio, and a bedroom, characteristic of an upper class dwelling of the time.

The living room, one of the most important spaces in all homes, now shows a seating set representing the époque's taste for European styles. This furniture belonged to the Brenes Espinach family, and was donated to the National Museum. There is also an upright piano, which was a key piece in any high society home demonstrating refined taste for music, and allowing to prove the artistic abilities of society's young girls.

The bedroom exhibits furniture donated by Mrs. Julia Cortés, and which belonged to ex-president  León Cortés Castro (1936-1940). The bed, night tables and dresser—all in solid wood—take us back to the time when art deco was at its peak.

A large library belonging to Mauro Fernandez, a desk, a safe—among other furniture, brighten up the studio, which was a space traditionally designed for men.

Other objects that enhance the space, and which represent the change of consumer's patterns of the époque, are a carved wooden hutch made at the Public Works Workshop under the direction of Mr. Roberto Ramón Coll, cabinet maker of Spanish descent; a desk that belonged to Mrs. Carlota Rucavado, in whose drawers were found letters to her husband, Buenaventura Espinach from 1870 to 1895;  and two chinoiserie desks in artistic European style inspired by Chinese design, which are exquisite in the detail of their paintings and abundant decoration.




Silver jewelry box                             Wooden jewelry box                      Medallion with floral
 in gold                                                with decorations                           motifs decorated with
 decorated with                                                                                           natural hair
flower motifs in high relief                                                                                               

The Houses and "Indoor" exhibit are open to the public during regular Museum hours
Tuesday to Saturday 8:30am to 4:30pm, and Sundays 9:00am to 4:30pm. Visits to this space are included in the Museum's entry fee, and its access is located at the end of the pre-Columbian hall.

Download information in Spanish Part 1Part 2

Enjoy the photo gallery                   


Translation courtesy of Silvia Piza-Tandlich /