|The story of this building
begins more than one hundred years ago, like a fairy tale or the sweet
dreams of a romance lost as time goes by. |
Around the middle of the
past century, a schooner leaves the Bremen harbour in Germany and sails
the stormy water of the Atlantic Ocean bound to the city of Puerto Plata,
in the Dominican Republic
Aboard the schooner, together with many
other emigrants from all Europe seeking their fortune in far countries, is
Emil Bentz a young German, who is taking with him all his hopes and wishes
indispensable to meet the journey to his future.
In the course of the long days
of sailing, Emil meets little all the passengers: businessmen,
adventurers, families going to meet with their relatives or simply
emigrants like him, wishful to engage in a new life or to look for new
opportunities on the other side of the Ocean.
Day by day, Emil
realizes to have strong feelings for Maria Hatchmann, the shooner
captain’s young and lean daughter: her tenderness, kindness and large blue
eyes make him fall deeply in love.
The days follow the nights and the
nights follow the days: the mutual liking turns into a deep feeling.
A shining sun, the gentle
breeze of the Caribbean and a lot of people are waiting in Puerto Plata
harbour for the arrival of the German schooner, loaded with many
expectations and humanity.
Emil and Maria fulfill their dreams for
love and marry a few month later, around 1865. In the following years they
open, near the harbour area, the most elegant hotel in Puerto Plata, were
most of the foreign travelers go to.
In 1870 Arturo, their first
son, is born followed by three more sons and one daughter.
In the last
years of the past century, Augusto Bentz and his brother Rodolfo open a
pulpier(grocery store) near the “Guinea” bridge and their business are
increasing: at the beginning of this century, together with two
associates, Mr. Folch, they buy the ingenio Amistad ( Amistad Sugar Mill),
named to honor the brotherly union, near the town of Imbert, and shortly
after they adquire the Ingenio Montellano.
The Bentz family is now being
part of merchant bourgeoisie of Puerto Plata; things are going very well
and the symbols of opulence are evident: Augusto and Rodolfo are the first
car owners in Puerto Plata.
Augusto marries in the first year of this
century with Carolina Castán, the daughter of a Spanish immigrant. They
have 7 children: their family is now very large and Augusto Bentz charges
in 1918 the famous Spanish architect Martín Gallart y Canti to build a big
residence, the Villa Bentz, presently place of this Amber Museum.
In December of 1919, once the
construction finished, the Bentz family takes possession of the new house,
a dream great like a white castle.
Augusto Bentz, the head of the
family, a short and lean man, with a stern glance but with warm heart, is
an exemplary father for his children; Carolina, his wife, short
dark-haired and always elegant in her dresses, is so sweet and infinitely
forbearing with her creatures.
On January 11th, 1920, the
wedding of Luisa, their eldest daughter, with Agustín Puig, is the
opportunity for a big party at the villa: the bride, gorgeous in her
white-dress,the elegant guests, the children who fill with their laughs
and screams the air of joy,the tables covered by Flanders laces, the
beautiful plates with silvers covers, all kinds of food, together with
Veuve Cliquot champagne and the best brands of rum, whisky and beer…
The elegant building, called at
that time La Casa Blanca ( The White House), Neoclassic in style, stands
on the West corner of the crossing of Duarte and Emilio Proud’homme
streets; it has a wide gallery on three sides with classical columns and
its blueprint is in the Puerto Plata style with Spanish tradition: a main
building and a wing with bedrooms and utilities on the backside, adjacent
to the court.
Classical motifs repeat the ornamental details of iron
and wood in friezes, cornices, balconies, ventilators and door-jambs, with
some original interpretations in the elements and the decoration of the
classical architectural repertoire.
During several years, on every
weekend, the Villa becomes lively when all the Puerto Plata “nice people”
attend the receptions and the parties given by the Bentz:tastefully
dinners on the roof, with a great profusion of the most excellent and
delicious pastries and liquors, interlaced flowers, sumptuous and giddy
dances in the ballroom: the orchestra is very clever to diffuse harmonious
melodies that inebriate everybody’s souls with turning waltzes and
mazurkas and that give brilliance to the beauty and the dresses of all the
ladies, charming in the air of magic that fell the ambience.
Time seems to forget the daily
problems and the Bentz family sails the high waves of opulence.
first warning of danger appear and make real with the great economic
depression in 1929,that force Augusto and Rodolfo to sell their Sugar
Mills, due the great world crisis: the sugar price falls from 25 pesos to
1 peso per quintal (100 kg).
Following Augusto’s death in 1933, the
Bentz family is forced to lower its level of living and gives for rent the
Villa, which will be for several years a Secondary School, attended by all
the Puerto Plata bourgeoisie’s children.
Around the middle of the ‘50s
is established in the building a school of housewifery, that gives free of
charge a succession of very interesting courses, and in 1957 opens its
doors a school of painting, that graduates many today well-known artists.
The years after 1961 are for the building a long period ofneglect,
abandon and deterioration until 1973, when the Hotel Colonial starts its
activity, with the main presence of the many businessmen visiting Puerto
In 1977 Mr. Aldo Costa
and his wife Didi, an Italian couple established in Puerto Plata from a
longtime, buy the property and opens the tourist bazaar boutique.
60 years have passed since the
building of the large white Villa and and the entire structure urgently
needs a lot of works for its restoration: the Costa family, with its
natural Italian artistic mind, realizes to own a great artistic treasure,
a unique in the architectural panorama of Puerto Plata, and decides to
exhaust its efforts anda lot of money to give again the original look the
In 1980 important works are
started and, almost 2 years later, Puerto Plata meets again the
jewel born in 1919.
On March 30th, 1982, is opened the Amber Museum,
the first in the Dominican Republic, that draws not only a lot of tourists
but offers itself, in the same time, like a focus for international
During the first months of 1997 almost 80 years after its
building, the Villa Bentz is in great array with a second course of works
to open the museum’s new department: the elegant Neoclassic structure is
now beautiful for the passers-by and the visitors, the inner halls evoke
the memory of the ancient parties, many pieces of art and wonderful
details adorn every corner of the building, the splendid scientific
collections of amber are on display in a very original way.
By night, under the moonlight
and gentle Caribbean breeze, in the deep silence of the asleep city, could
hear, around the large halls of the Villa, light melodies of waltz and the
gentle clinking of two glasses with champagne, to celebrate and welcome
the memory for the new century.