PVII Gallery Magic: Sutton Place
Located on a point jutting out from the San Juan harbor, the
original fort was begun in 1540 and completed in 1589. Although
it's called El Moro, it was really named for King Phillip II
of Spain and called San Felipe del Morro. Now it is a National
Although this grassy plain on either side of the road is now
ideal for picnics or just enjoying the sun, it was a planned part
of the fortification, giving an open field of fire to the fort's
Guard towers stud the walls lining the approach to the fort
and are peppered all about the structure itself.
Even though the "Esplanade" provides no cover, the only successful
attack on the fort was launched from it. In 1598 George Clifford,
Duke of Cumberland, captured El Moro by attacking from the
land. However, his troops were so weakened by dysentery that
they were only able to hold it for six weeks. before withdrawing.
The walls visible from the open area are the retaining walls
of the dry moat not the actual wall of the fortress.
View on the seaward side shows the lighthouse
Standing by the monument to the 500 years of history represented
by El Moro, Robert looks out over San Juan Bay to today's industrial
plants on the other side.
The gates originally had a drawbridge.
Presented to the San Juan National Historical Site in 1964
by the government of Spain, hanging above the gate is King Charles
II's coat of arms. The additional fortifications were completed
during his reign in the 1700s.
Puerto Rico became a US Territory at the end of the Spanish-American
War. US battleships shelled El Moro and San Cristobal in 1898.
The main battery at the point was damaged. It was an active
military post from the 1900s until 1961 when it was turned over
to the National Park Service as a museum.
From above and inside main gates, the city of San Juan is on
the other side of the grassy park. Part of the dry moat is visible
on the bottom right. It sinks the fort's profile out of sight
behind thick earthen mounds and forces enemy soldiers to run uphill
into blasts of cannon fire.
The point or moro which gives rise to its name is easily visible
from the top ramparts. In 1595, Sir Francis Drake became yet
another who failed to take El Moro from the sea. Nor did he
escape unscathed. Guns mounted at the point formed the "water
battery" and put a
cannonball through the cabin of Drake's flagship.
The first lighthouse at El Moro was constructed in 1843. This
one was built in 1908 by the US Navy
The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts
The original fort was enlarged and reinforced during the late
1700s. Rising 140 feet above the sea, its 18-foot-thick wall
proved a formidable defense. During WWII, an underground bunker
and concrete artillery observation posts were added. Modern
artillery pieces were replaced by these antique cannons when
El Moro became a museum.
One of the many watchtowers on the outer walls facing the bay
and just past the barracks
El Moro commands the entrance to San Juan Bay. From here,
it's easy to see why it was only captured once.
A slip of land jutting into the bay
El Moro is quite a maze. This walkway leads to the main plaza
and is easily covered by the upper level.
El Moro is studded with small, circular sentry boxes called
"garitas" that have become a national symbol.
Walking from the lighthouse towards the upper seaward ramparts.
Castillo de San Cristóbal (San Cristóbal Fort) is El Moro's
partner in the city's defense. Built in 1634 (completed in 1771),
it was considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies.
San Cristóbal was supported by a massive system of outworks
which provided defense in depth and is is one of the largest
defenses ever built in the Americas. It rose 150 feet, covering
27 acres of land. As if its size and height weren't sufficient
to intimidate enemies, its intricate modular design was sure
to foil them. A strategic masterpiece, it features five independent
units, each connected by moat and tunnel; each fully self-sufficient
should the others fall. Parts of it were destroyed to provide
growing room for the city of San Juan. Like El Moro, it is now
part of the National Park System.
From the lighthouse side opposite the bay, the city of San
Juan stretches backwards. It was captured by the Dutch in 1625
but they were not able to capture El Moro