Casa Popenoe is a beautifully restored colonial home. It was built in 1632 and severely damaged during the many earthquakes. It was lovingly restored countless years later by Dr. Wilson Popenoe whose family still lives here. To tour this house is to step back in time, making it easy to imagine how the wealthy of the colonial era lived.
Many rooms are open to the public and for the most part are decorated in authentic period furnishings. I particularly liked an old chest sitting under a huge painting of Pedro de Alvarado, Guatemala's conquistador. As usual, I found the building more interesting than the contents. The floors are covered in terracotta tile, hand-hewn beams support the ceiling, and like so many buildings in town, the walls are about two feet thick. There are some beautiful details too, in the intricate design of doorways, and shuttered and barred windows. It is a lovely house.
The various gardens are fantastic, lush and full of flowers, with plenty of reminders of the colonial era. There is an absolutely huge washbasin, similar to the community wash areas in many Guatemalan towns. If I lived here, I would be using it as a swimming pool. The original herb garden is by the kitchen, its tall walls are covered in ivy and its raised beds are full of orange, yellow and purple flowers, but no longer any herbs. In a grassy area, towards the entrance to the house, there is a pretty fountain tucked between trees and surrounded by more flowers.
A few things left me curious, but unfortunately, the woman who let us in, who had been very informative, was busy and I found no one else to ask. On a wall, in the garden, are a plate collection and a fascinating tile collection. I don't know their significance. Maybe the tiles were the original house or patio flooring. They are very pretty.
We left, sad to be going. For me, this was one of the most interesting places in Antigua. If you choose to visit plan accordingly, it is open Monday through Saturday but only from 2pm to 4pm.
Casa Popenoe is on 1 Avenida Sur between 5 Calle Oriente and 6 Calle Oriente. To get there from the main plaza head east on 5 Calle past the church, go three blocks, and turn right on 1 Avenida to get to the entrance. Admission is 10Q (US$1.25)