"XANADU MANSION" CLUB HOUSE
The "Xanadú Mansion"
Golf Course Club House, located on the
San Bernardino crags, was designed by architects
Covarrocas and Govantes in July 1927.
The owner of this exclusive estate was
French American millionaire Irenee Dupont
de Nemours, born on 21 December 1876, who
eventually had 8 children, 35 grandchildren
and 5 great-grand children. Irenee was the
Dupont of that generation who took the greatest
interest in developing the company founded
by his great grandfather Eleuthere Dupont
in Delaware in 1802. During Irenee's lifetime,
the company became the largest diversified
chemical products empire in the world, employing
in 1957 90 000 workers in 74 plants worldwide.
Before taking over the company chairmanship,
Irenee had several jobs in construction,
finances and development.
In 1927, at the age of 49, he retired from
the chemical empire chairmanship and started
to look around for a quiet place to spend
his retirement. Like many Americans, he
found it in Cuba. That very same year he
purchased 180 hectares of land on the Hicacos
Peninsula for 90 000 pesos. The property
included 8 km of virgin breaches, but he
chose the rocky hills of the San Bernardino
crags to build his dream house. The four
storey mansion, with 11 bedrooms and adjoining
baths, three large terraces, seven balconies
and a private dock, was named "Xanadu",
after the exotic Palace built by the legendary
Chinese warrior and conqueror Kublas Khan,
as described by the English poet Samuel
Taylor. According to the legend, "Xanadu"
was the ancient kingdom of the Tartars,
extending from Central Asia to Western China
and parts of Russia.
In 1932 Dupont installed the largest privately
owned organ in all of Latin America, worth
11 000 dollars. The machinery was installed
in the basement and the organ worked automatically
and manually. Two shafts carried the music
to the mirador and the lobby, without inconveniencing
the guests in their rooms. The furniture,
including the organ, paintings and piano,
were supplied by Theodore Baily & Co.
and Meras & Rico.
Precious woods were brought especially
from Santiago de Cuba for the ceilings,
stair rails and columns, while the floors
and bathrooms were done in Cuban, Italian
and Spanish marble. The actual construction
was entrusted to the Frederick Sneard Corporation
at a cost of 1 300 000 dollars and finished
on 30 December 1930.
Dupont would stay at Xanadu for a few months
each year from early January, sometimes
inviting important company executives.
The Dupont estate grew to some 1328 acres,
covering parts of what today is the municipality
of Cardenas. The land had been bought at
the ridiculous price of four cents per square
meter, but the estate's value increased
years later when the road, power plant and
aqueduct were built.
The gardens were planted with coconut trees.
On the Eastern slopes they planted flowers
and a vegetable garden, together with banana,
avocado and papaya trees. Parrots and cockatoos
were imported to make the place more tropically
Although architect Herbert Strong designed
the first golf course with 18 holes, it
was later built with only 9 following a
design by Sim Cuthrie. The first four holes
were built on natural soil, while the others
required refilling. The golf course was
started in December 1931, and shortly after
completion, in September 1933, was hit by
a hurricane that swept away with greens
and fairways from holes 5 to 9. From April
to December 1934, over US$ 10 000 worth
of soil had to be dumped on the land and
the golf course was fully operational again
The golf course was always owned by Peñas
de Hicacos S.A. and its total cost, excluding
soil refills and maintenance, was over US$
41 000. Originally, there was the idea of
forming a golf club with exclusive membership,
but this was never done. Playing the 9 holes
cost $1.00, of which $0.50 was for the caddy,
and the rest was for a public school.
In March 1957 Dupont visited Xanadu for
the last time. On 12 December 1963, Xanadu
opened as "Las Americas" Restaurant,
with Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova
as guest of honor. That same day, at the
age of 85, Irenee Dupont passed away in