Construction of the lines of defense began in the late 18th century, between 1780 and 1798, as part of the reforms proposed by Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly in 1765. The first to be built was the third line, which ran from west to east for approximately 500 feet from the Abanino Fort, next to the San Cristóbal Fort, to La Princesa Fort or Battery, which was located to the east of San Cristóbal. At the end of the wall was a small port on the beach with a fortification. Today, all that remains of this line is the arc and ruins of the fort on the beach at Baja Mar.
Construction of the second line, which consisted of a trench and moat, was completed in 1794. It extended westward from Escambrón Point for a distance of 1,400 feet. The other end crossed the land where the Luis Muñoz Rivera Park is now located. All that survives today are the ruins of the Isabel II bastion, located at the intersection of Constitución Avenue and San Agustín Street in Puerta de Tierra, and some remains of the wall.
The first line of defense, the longest of the three, was built between 1795 and 1800. It consisted of a wall with batteries that connected the fortifications located on the eastern end of the islet: the Escambrón Battery, the San Ramón Battery, the San Antonio Fort and the San Jerónimo Fort. A segment of the line of defense extended from the San Ramón Battery to the San Jerónimo magazine, located in the interior. This line of defense protected Escambrón Beach, as well as the Condado Lagoon and the San Antonio Canal.
During the attack of 1797 by the English, under the command of Ralph Abercromby, this line of defense and the San Cristóbal Fort were crucial in the defeat of the English forces. In later years, the first line of defense underwent some changes, such as the inclusion of new structures and improvements to existing ones. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, a defensive barracks was built at the San Ramón Battery.
In 1894, the San Antonio Fort and Bridge were destroyed so a new metal bridge could be built, which in turn was demolished and replaced with a reinforced concrete bridge in 1927. A small portion of the ruins of the fort still remain next to this bridge today. Also still remaining today, in addition to some scattered sections of the wall, the Escambrón Battery and the San Jerónimo Fort are still standing. The former was in a state of deterioration until 2003, when a restoration was undertaken. The San Jerónimo Fort belongs to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Rivero Méndez, Angel. Crónica de la Guerra Hispanoamericana en Puerto Rico, Madrid, 1922.
De Hostos, Adolfo. Historia de San Juan, ciudad murada:ensayo acerca del proceso de la civilización en la ciudad española de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, 1521-1898, San Juan, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1966.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 13, 2010.