PURDY & HENDERSON - Structural Engineers and Builders in La Habana (1899-1960)
a lecture by Beatriz del Cueto.
Engineer Corydon Purdy, known as father of the structural engineering profession, promoted the engineer as an important consultant for architects. A pioneer in steel-frame construction, his first offices were in Chicago. In 1893, associated with Engineer Lightner Henderson, the Purdy & Henderson firm established their first branch in Manhattan.
After the Spanish American War, P&H were one of the first U.S. firms in Cuba to offer their expertise. Their Havana projects included steel-framed edifices clad in concrete-block, cast-stone, natural stone, and reinforced concrete. Working in collaboration with Cuban architects and engineers, their best-known projects are the Capitolio, Hotel Nacional, Banco Nacional, and Centro Gallego.
The visionary endeavors of Purdy & Henderson provided projects throughout Cuba. Little has been written about this work. These investigations help to understand the degree of success of North American construction Means and Methods brought to Cuba at the turn of the 20th century.
Beatriz del Cueto is the founding principal of Pantel, del Cueto & Associates-Historic Preservation Consultants in Puerto Rico, Architect Beatriz del Cueto is recognized in the Architectural Conservation field. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the American Academy in Rome and the James Marston Fitch Foundation, her projects and articles have received awards and been published in professional journals. Del Cueto established the first Architectural Conservation Laboratory at the School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico which she directed and taught for 17 years. As Associate Professor of the GSAPP of Columbia University, her focus was the building technologies in the Spanish Caribbean during the first three decades of the 20th century. She has written about traditional construction materials and technologies in the Caribbean region and appropriate intervention methods. Her research and recent publications are focused on the use of Portland cement, reinforced concrete, and steel frame in structures from 1900-40.