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The Most Interesting Heritage Sites Around Taft Avenue in Manila: Historical Places + Nostalgic Hidden Gems

The Most Interesting Heritage Sites Around Taft Avenue in Manila: Historical Places + Nostagic Hidden Gems

Bounded roughly by the Pasig River to the north, by San Marcelino and Leon Guinto (formerly Pennsylvania) to the east, by Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz) to the south, by Roxas Boulevard (formerly Dewey), Luneta Park, and Intramuros to the west, the Taft Avenue area of Manila is associated with urban development during the American colonial period. Named after the first American civil governor of the Philippines, William Howard Taft, the avenue runs roughly at the center of this corridor. It is marked at its north end by the neoclassical Central Post Office and at its south by the art deco Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. These two styles, introduced during the American colonial era, were emblems of the range of architectural styles that appeared from 1901, when civil rule was established, to 1946, when the Philippines ceased to be a colony of the United States.

The development of this area, covering three districts of Manila—Ermita, Malate, and Paco—falls within the general urban plan of Daniel H. Burnham, who arrived in the Philippines in 1905 to advise the American government how best to develop Manila. In his plan, the area south of Intramuros was to be developed as a mix of government buildings and privately built structures. He proposed developing Luneta along the lines of Washington, DC, where the Legislative building, to rise near the sea, would be the centerpiece and guide the subsequent development. The Legislature and Luneta Park, which would be an open field similar to the Washington, DC Mall, was supposed to be the principal spine. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals would then be built perpendicular to the Legislature and the Park.

In Burnham’s plan, Taft Avenue would be the main road that would link the southern side of Manila, from the Pasig River, to Pasay. This avenue was developed such that its center islands, planted with acacia trees, would provide a shady and picturesque avenue. Those trees have been removed in the post-World War II era because of the expansion of Taft, the construction of an underpass beside the Manila City Hall, and the construction of the Light Rail Transit (LRT), between 1981 and 1985.

With the exception of church complexes and some houses, Ermita and Malate were open spaces, while Paco had a public cemetery. The area south of Luneta was a swampland dotted by a few dwellings of bamboo and nipa along M. H. del Pilar (Calle Real), T. M. Kalaw (San Luis), Alhambra, and the bay. But immediately south of Intramuros was Plaza Militar in Ermita, used for military drills and as the site of many expositions and fairs.

There were also open spaces on the Paco side, where the occupying American troops encamped in the early 1900s. The old name of the streets in the area like Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Virginia, and Colorado, recalled the troops who encamped in this area during the Philippine-American War (1898-1901). In the Burnham plan, these streets formed a grid—the streets perpendicular to Taft reached up to Dewey Boulevard. The person responsible for naming these new streets was Henry M. Jones, an American entrepreneur who founded the American Hardware and Plumbing Company. He bought most of the area of Malate and Paco, drained the swamps, did his own reclamation, and sold lots from one to two pesos a square meter. He found a ready market with the Americans who migrated to Manila and with the wealthy Filipinos from the provinces who were sending their children to the schools being established in Malate.

Duplex houses, row houses, multilevel apartments, single detached houses—especially tsalet (chalet) types—and hotels for transients were built in the newly developed area. Some of the houses were already built and ready for occupancy when sold, a departure from a long tradition of local construction where residences were a one-of-a-kind works.

The heritage structures in this area may be organized according to location, citing the principal north-south street as an orientation point.

Old photo of Luneta Park or Rizal Park in Manila
The Luneta, 1901 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Roxas Boulevard Corridor

Roxas Boulevard, formerly Dewey Boulevard, was built by the Bureau of Public Works. It was implementing Burnham’s plan to reclaim land at Manila’s foreshore to build a scenic boulevard that was wide, well lighted, and dotted with palms and tropical trees. The boulevard was to extend from Luneta to Cavite City, and was originally named Cavite. But the project was not completed. When World War II broke out, Dewey Boulevard had just reached Baclaran in Pasay City.

The section of the city around Luneta and Dewey Boulevard was a prime location for leisure-oriented buildings like exclusive clubs, hotels, and stylish mansions of the rich. From Luneta to Pablo Ocampo, there were four structures from the Spanish colonial era that survived to the early 20th century. They were Ermita Church, the temporary buildings on Plaza Militar, Malate Church, and Fort San Antonio Abad, near Pablo Ocampo.

Three buildings around Rizal Park were designed by William E. Parsons, consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works from 1906 to 1914, namely Army Navy, Elks, and Manila Hotel.

Parsons, who returned to the United States (US) in 1914, worked with two styles: neoclassical and Mission revival. But he was an innovator that tropicalized these styles with the use of capiz shells instead of glass for windows, large windows and openings for cross ventilation, high ceilings to allow hot air to rise, and transoms over doors and walls to vent hot air. He deliberately shielded rooms from heat and rain by adding wide, covered corridors and loggias. He insisted on covered walkways under commercial buildings for the convenience of pedestrians, an innovation already introduced in the Philippines towards the end of the Spanish colonial era. These walkways are similar to the lima kaki (five-foot covered corridors) in the British Strait colonies.

He advocated the use of concrete instead of stone, the use of monochromatic wall colors—usually white or cream—and tropical landscaping to act as a foil for the whitewashed building. Parsons also imported improved construction materials and techniques, like the Kahn Truss system, concrete hollow blocks, and adoption of modular and standardized plans. He persuaded the government to stop importing Oregon pine, replacing these instead with decay-resistant tropical hardwood. These innovations brought down costs while improving quality.

Parsons’s revivalist style had its origins in Europe and the United States. Neoclassicism appeared in Europe in the mid-18th century as a reaction to the excesses of baroque and rococo. It was brought to the US, where Thomas Jefferson, who designed and built his home Montecello in the style, endorsed it as the most appropriate for a government center. French architect, L’Enfant, designed Washington, DC in a monumental neoclassical style called Federal. Neoclassical got a major boost with the Chicago Columbian Exposition, meant to commemorate the fourth centennial of Columbus’s voyage to America. Daniel H. Burnham, who designed the exposition, created what was known as the Great White City. He brought this experience to the Philippines when he was called to make plans for the cities of Manila and Baguio.

Mission Revival also had its major boost in an exposition at Balboa Park, San Diego. Named after Spanish explorer, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the park had already been established at the turn of the 19th century. An extensive unbuilt area, it easily hosted the 1915 to 1916 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935 to 1936 California Pacific International Exposition. The 1915 San Diego Exposition coincided with the opening of the Panama Canal, an undertaking funded and engineered by the Americans. The exposition architects were Bertram Goodhue and Carleton Windslow, who chose the Mission Revival Style, then popular in California, but borrowed heavily from Churrigueresque and Plateresque for detailing. They created a variant style, Spanish Colonial Revival Style. While the building of the 1915 San Diego Exposition still stands, the only remaining building in San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts. San Francisco likewise held a Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. Bernard Maybeck, the designer of the San Franciso expo, chose to draw inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture. In contrast to San Diego, San Francisco’s buildings were neoclassical and built to evoke a ruin. Unlike San Diego, the San Francisco buildings were not permanent. They were made of steel and wood frames covered with staff, a mixture of plaster and burlap-type fiber. The central rotunda of the Palace was in disrepair, so it was torn down and recreated in 1964 in lightweight, poured-in- place concrete.

Parsons drew from these two styles as he designed buildings in Manila. The three buildings he designed around Luneta were all private commissions. Following the stipulation in his contract with the colonial government, Parsons was allowed to take on private commissions to augment his 6,000 dollars per annum salary.

Army and Navy Club

Army and Navy Club Manila
Army and Navy Club Manila (Center for Filipino Architecture FB Page)

Army and Navy Club on South Road, the southern boundary of Luneta, was built in 1909. Built for 300,000 pesos, the building was set on a two-hectare lot and was composed of three structures: the club house, the dance hall, and the kitchen and staff quarters. These three structures are all laid out in an H. The building is made of reinforced concrete and has a flat roof. The building utilizes the Kahn system, named after Albert Kahn (1869-1943), an American industrial architect who pioneered the use of reinforced concrete for structure, floor, wall, and roof. Kahn first used the technique in Packard Motors Co.’s factory in 1903. The Kahn system allowed for a wider span of free space, unobstructed by supports. High ceilings, large windows stretching from column to column, and deep loggias surrounded the ground floor. The building is in the process of being redeveloped at the present.

The Elks Club

Elks Club at the foreground and Army and Navy Club at the background
Elks Club at the foreground and Army and Navy Club at the background before World War II (Leo Cloma Collection)

The Elks Club on Roxas Boulevard was built in 1911, and is presently the Museong Pambata. Founded in 1868 in the US as the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, this social club established a branch in the Philippines. Parsons designed the building as the Manila headquarters of the Elks. It was in the same neoclassical idiom as neighboring Army Navy.

The Manila Hotel

Old photo of the Manila Hotel
The Manila Hotel, c.1915 (Manila Nostalgia)

The Manila Hotel on Katigbak Parkway, the northern boundary of Luneta, was built from 1909 to 1912. It was renovated in 1935, expanded and restored in 1976 with the addition of a tower, and was once more renovated in 2008.

The Manila Hotel’s inauguration on 4 July 1912 was meant to coincide with the US Independence Day. From its inception, the hotel, which stood on 3.5 hectares of reclaimed land, was considered a prestigious hotel. From 1935 to 1941, its penthouse was used as the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur, during his tenure as Military Advisor of the Philippine Commonwealth. Aside from providing hotel rooms, several foreign organizations, such as The New York Times, held offices at the hotel.

The old lobby of the Manila Hotel

Parsons designed the Manila Hotel in the Mission Revival style, but adapted to the tropics. This is visible in the wide, overhanging pitched roof supported by corbels. The original plan was shaped as an H, with well-ventilated rooms on the two lateral wings that opened to a grand vista of the Manila Bay, Luneta, and Intramuros. The building had four stories and an additional top floor, which was a roofed viewing deck. In 1935, President Manuel Quezon commissioned Andres Luna de San Pedro to renovate the building. He converted the roof deck to a penthouse and expanded the west wing northward, building an air-conditioned annex and the Fiesta Pavilion. General MacArthur would occupy the penthouse and the festivities for the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth were held in the hotel in November 1935.

During the Marcos era, the former Manila Hotel Company ceased to exist and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) took over. Remodeling began in 1975, with the addition of a building tower, increasing the hotel’s capacity to 570 rooms. Renovations were headed by Leandro Locsin, Ildefonso Santos, and a foreign design firm, Dale Keller and Associates. The sparse Mission style gave way to more lavish furnishing. The renovated hotel re-opened on 6 October 1977. The hotel was again renovated in 2008 to prepare for the 2012 centennial of the hotel. By this time, ownership passed from government to the private sector.

American Embassy Chancery

The American Embassy Chancery Manila
American Embassy, 1960 (Source:

The American Embassy Chancery on 1201 Roxas Boulevard was built around 1935. Its architect, Juan N. Arellano, designed in a severe neoclassical style. The US Chancery was formerly the residence for the high commissioner of the Philippines. This position was created during the Commonwealth era (1935-1946) and replaced the position of governor-general. The work of the high commissioner was to expedite a smooth transition from the Commonwealth to an independent Philippine Republic and to represent the United States in the Philippines. When Malacañan was turned over to the President Quezon, the new residence had to be built. While the Chancery was being constructed, the high commissioner moved to Mansion House in Baguio City.

The Chancery was built on reclaimed land along Roxas Boulevard set aside by the Philippine government. To raise the building, 600 concrete piles were sunk about 20 meters into the ground. The wings of the building were arranged around an open atrium that allows for maximum light and ventilation in all the areas. The facade is approached through a wide driveway that connects to a landscaped oval rotunda where the American flag flies. The facade’s center is slightly recessed and is flanked by bays with windows corresponding to the three stories of the building. These windows are devoid of ornament. Eight Tuscan pillars, rising to two stories define the central section. The middle three sections are covered with a canopy and leads to the triple entrance of the building. The flanking sections have windows. The third floor rests on the lower colonnade and has rectangular windows beneath are grilled faux windows, reminiscent of the ventanillas (small windows) of the bahay na bato (stone house). The rear of the building has a semicircular colonnade, reminiscent of the White House in Washington, DC. Unlike the rear colonnade of the White House, which faces a garden, the Chancery faces Manila Bay.

Luneta Hotel

Luneta Hotel to the left and Bayview Hotel to the right before World War II
Luneta Hotel to the left and Bayview Hotel to the right before World War II (CCP Collections)

Luneta Hotel at T. M. Kalaw (formerly San Luis) was built in 1918. It was designed by architect Salvador Farre in the French Renaissance style so that tenants would have a view of Luneta and Manila Bay’s famous sunset. In July 1941, the hotel was converted to a non-commissioned officers club. The hotel had 60 rooms with private baths, two suites, telephones in all rooms, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and lanais or veranda. Typical of the French Renaissance style, the hotel has a Mansard roof, not often found in Philippine architecture. Gargoyles in the form of lions, crocodiles, griffins, and other mythical creatures support the wrought iron balconies. After World War II, it fell into disuse, but it has been recently restored and run by its present owner, Beaumont Holdings.

The Ynchausti Residence

Old Ynchausti Residence Mansion in Manila
The Ynchausti Residence on M. H. del Pilar - formerly Real (Source:

The Ynchausti Residence on M. H. del Pilar (formerly Real) was built in the early 1900s. This was the residence of Jose McMicking and Angelina Ynchausti, whose family founded J. J. Ynchausti y Cia, a shipping and trading firm in 1816 and the Banco Español-Filipino. The company built the Puente Colgante which linked the Parian with Quiapo, owned Tanduay Distillery, a paint company YCO Paints and Floor Wax, and had business interests in sugar and abaca. The Ynchausti residence’s facade faced M. H. del Pilar, while its back faced Manila Bay. The house is a two-story structure in the tradition of the bahay na bato, but with neoclassical ornamentation, such as those found in the multiple columns that support the upper story, which overhangs a covered corridor at the ground floor. The upper floor has arched windows divided by columns into three segments. The roof is ornamented in the manner of Victorian gingerbread houses.

The Admiral Apartments

Old photo of the Admiral Apartments on Roxas Boulevard
Old photo of the Admiral Apartments on Roxas Boulevard

The Admiral Apartments on Roxas Boulevard was built from 1938 to 1939. Its architect was Fernando Ocampo. The hotel was constructed at the cost of 400,000 pesos. Its function rooms and dining rooms were a favorite among Manileños. The Admiral named these rooms: the Blue Room, which was for private dining; the Spanish Room, which was the reception room; the Malayan Court, which was the main dining room; and the Coconut Grove, the cocktail lounge. In Malayan Court hung an oil painting by Antonio Dumlao.

The Admiral was inaugurated on 8 July 1939 with Pres Quezon as guest of honor. For many years, the Admiral was the tallest building in Manila and served as a seafarer’s landmark. Among the distinguished guests that visited the Admiral were Clare Booth Luce, the American Ambassador to Italy and wife of media mogul, Henry Luce, and Prince Louis Mountbatten, uncle of Prince Philip of England. During World War II, the Japanese navy, under Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji, commandeered the hotel and turned it into its office. The building escaped damage during the liberation of Manila. In the years immediately after the war the American High Command stayed at the Admiral, with the exception of General MacArthur, who had his own suite at the Manila Hotel. The Admiral Hotel was demolished in 2014, to make way for a 52-story hotel, despite the protest of heritage advocates.

Old Churches and Spanish-era Plazas

Two churches stand on M. H. del Pilar Street, parallel to Roxas Boulevard. They are the Nuestra Señora de Guia of Ermita, and the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios of Malate. These two churches, while not located along Roxas Boulevard, are best viewed from the boulevard because the Spanish-era plazas located before these churches have been preserved. The Ermita plaza, bearing the same name as the church, is a narrow longitudinal plaza planted with trees and shrubs that runs from Del Pilar to Roxas Boulevard. The Malate plaza, presently named Rajah Sulayman Park, is also planted with trees, but its middle section, where a monument to Rajah Sulayman by the sculptor Eduardo Castrillo stands, has been paved.

The Ermita Church

Ermita Church – Nuestra Señora de Guia
Ermita Church – Nuestra Señora de Guia c.1900s

The Ermita Church on Del Pilar corner Antonio Flores was built in the 1950s and designed by Carlos Antonio Santos-Viola. The present church is a post-World War II structure, which replaced older structures built during the Spanish era. The church and the parish origins are from a hermitage built in 1606, hence the name Ermita. The hermitage housed the image of Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance), which was found by the invading troops of Legazpi on 19 May 1571 on a pandan plant. It was being worshipped by the Tagalog in the area.

The image was brought to the Manila Cathedral, but was returned to the area when a hermitage made of wood, bamboo, and nipa thatch was built there. Since the late 16th century, a number of churches were built on the area, each church replacing the previous one. The history of the constructions is uncertain, but there is evidence of a baroque structure built in the 18th century, which replaced the 17th century structure. In 1885, a church designed by Lorenzo Guerrero, an artist and architect, was built on the site. Guerrero died in 1904 and was buried in the church. This church had the marks of revivalist architecture in the tall and slender arched windows of neo-Romanesque, the rose window and spires of neo-Gothic.

The 19th century church was destroyed during World War II, and the present church rose on its site. Designed by Santos-Viola, the church is a modern interpretation of the late 19th century revivalist style with straight functional lines, large windows that allow light to filter in, and a wide, tall space to house a congregation. It quotes historic styles, like the Romanesque, with its use of arched windows and a bell tower decorated with narrow and tall windows terminating in an arch on the upper floor.

The Malate Church

Malate Church, circa 1920
Malate Church, circa 1920 (CCP Collections)

The Malate Church occupies a block bounded by Del Pilar, Remedios, Mabini, and San Andres. Dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the first church was built in 1591. A parish of the Augustinians, the 1591 church was ordered demolished by Governor-General Sabiniano Manrique de Lara, for fear that it might be used by the Chinese pirate Limahong to stage an attack on Intramuros. The church was torn down in 1667.

A decade later, from 1677 to 1679, Father Dionisio Suarez, OSA, built a new church. The British occupied the church and adjacent convent in 1762. After it was damaged by an earthquake and typhoon in 1863, the church was rebuilt by Father Francisco Cuadro. The present church is most likely the fifth church built on the spot. There is evidence that after 1863, the church was made taller by integrating the original triangular pediment with the flanking bell towers, while preserving the earlier facade. The church is basically baroque with Mudejar ornamentation, evident in the use of trefoil arches for both open and blind windows. The 19th century church survived to the 20th century but was damaged by fire during World War II. The Columban fathers, who had succeeded the Augustinians in administering the parish, rebuilt the church in 1950. The church underwent retrofitting in 1992, following an earthquake in 1990. It was restored recently, in 2014. The church is cruciform, characterized by a rounded apse and transept end. A faux dome graces the transept crossing.

Fort San Antonio Abad

Fort San Antonio Abad inside the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas complex
Fort San Antonio Abad inside the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas complex (GERARD LICO,

Fort San Antonio Abad also known as Polverin is located on Roxas Boulevard, north of Pablo Ocampo. Presently, the fort is hidden from Roxas Boulevard by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. Built in 1764 as bastioned fort after the British occupation of Manila, it was located at the site of an earlier fort built in 1584 to guard the route between Cavite and Manila, and to act as a rear guard for the city. The fort was used as gunpowder storage or polverin, hence its other name. For fear that gunpowder, originally stored in Intramuros beside the Bastion de San Diego, posed a danger to the city should it ignite, the polverin was built. In 1762, the British occupied the polverin and used it to stage an assault on Intramuros.

After 1764, the polverin was renovated and renamed San Antonio Abad. On 13 August 1898, Americans occupied the fort and during World War II, the Japanese built a cement bunker on the eastern side of the fort and mounted a canon on it. This indestructible bunker still stands. After World War II, the fort and the land surrounding it were given to the navy until it was turned over to the Central Bank, to serve as its central headquarters. This triangular fort with two bastions was restored, with the construction in the 1970s of a new Central Bank Complex along Roxas Boulevard.

Fort San Antonio was declared a national cultural treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2014.

Taft Avenue Corridor

The Central Post Office

The Central Post Office on Liwasang Bonifacio Manila built in 1926
The Central Post Office on Liwasang Bonifacio Manila built in 1926

The Central Post Office on Liwasang Bonifacio was built in 1926 and designed by architects Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua in the neoclassical style. This building at the end of Taft Avenue and along the Pasig River gives a visual terminus to the principal road of this heritage area. Its location makes the Post Office more imposing than Arellano’s other building, the Legislative building along P. Burgos. The neoclassical design consists of a monumental rectangular block buttressed at each end by semicircular volumes. What makes the central block distinctive are the 14 fluted Ionic columns, raised on a podium approached by wide stairs. The podium leads to an open and tall portico defined by the columns, and then to the main hall where rows of counters are located. The workshop of Isabelo Tampinco and his son, Vidal, worked on the decorative elements of the building, including the large precast cement flowerpots that decorate the staircase leading to the vestibule. The building was destroyed in 1945, but it was restored in 1946 with the interior simplified. The decorated coffered ceiling of the pre-World War II building was not recreated. With the automation of mail and the increasing popularity of email, there are plans are to reuse the building for other purposes.

Insular Ice Plant and Cold Storage

old photo of Insular Ice Plant and Cold Storage Building in Parian along the Pasig River Manila
Insular Ice Plant and Cold Storage in Parian along the Pasig River Manila

Insular Ice Plant and Cold Storage was located in Parian along the Pasig River’s southern bank. Built in 1902, its architect was the American Edgar Ketchum Bourne, who opted for the Mission revivalist style. On 10 December 1901, the Philippine Commission, through Act No. 315, authorized the construction of an ice plant and cold storage facility for the army commissary. Criticized for being unnecessarily huge, it had the distinction of being the first permanent building constructed by the Americans. It had a massive, windowless brick wall in the refrigeration area, which was divided from the more open area by the main entrance. The main entrance had a generous pedimented portal, wide and one and a half stories tall, to allow easy access by freight vehicles. It had low relief false arches at the cold storage section, and windowed arches at the rest. Aside from the bricks, Oregon pine was used for the floor, columns, and interior structural members. Its slender smoke stack rose to about 10 stories. Steam coming from the stacks was diverted to a loud horn that signaled time for the city at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. The smoke stack was visible from a long distance around and served as a vertical landmark. An underground pipe brought cold air to the Metropolitan Theater to keep it cool when the theater was constructed in 1931. The ice plant was demolished in the early 1980s to make way for the superstructure of the LRT 1, which ran from Baclaran to Central Station. LRT 1 was inaugurated 1 December 1984.

The Metropolitan Theater

Metropolitan Theater, circa 1930
Metropolitan Theater, circa 1930 (Colorized by Bilog Bilugan, John Tewell Collection)

The Metropolitan Theater located facing Liwasang Bonifacio (formerly Plaza Lawton) was built in 1931 and restored in 1978 by Otilio Arellano. Its architects were Juan and Otilio Arellano and ornamentation was by Isabelo Tampinco. Its style combined art noveau and art deco. Inaugurated on 10 Dec 1931, with a mixed program of music, theater, and film, the Metropolitan Theater was hailed as a masterpiece of Arellano, who deviated from the neoclassical style, which had been his idiom for public buildings. The Metropolitan stood in contrast to the Legislative and Post Office buildings, for being colorful and festive. The theater was built for one million pesos, which was raised through public subscription. To prepare for the theater, Arellano studied under Thomas Lamb in the US, who was an expert in theater design.

The Metropolitan’s front was designed as a proscenium with an Art Noveau stained glass signage. The theater was flanked by garden courts and two-story wings for a ballroom, restaurants, offices, and shops. The complex was crowned by curving parapets with pinnacles. Otilio Arellano designed the bas-relief and statuary, which Isabelo Tampinco executed. Otilio supervised the restoration in 1978.

Abandoned for a number of years, since its closure in 1996, the Metropolitan’s future looked uncertain. But in 2015, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts took charge of the building.

Manila City Hall

Old photo of Manila City Hall
Manila City Hall, circa 1950 (CCP Collections)

Traveling south from the Central Post office, on the eastern side of Taft Avenue is Manila City Hall. It was built in 1941 and designed by architect Antonio Mañalac Toledo in the neoclassical style. The city hall has an irregular quadrilateral plan that conforms to the lot bound by P. Burgos Avenue to west, and A Villegas to the east. Burgos merges with Taft Avenue and Villegas crosses it on a diagonal. The building is planned around two atriums. At the northern section of the building stands the 10-story clock tower a distinct feature of the Manila City Hall. From the tower building, wings radiate like spokes of half a wheel. The buildings house the different departments of the city hall. The facade is on the south end and its main entrance is marked by a pedimented section. The north entrance is similar in design to the facade. This facade entrance is mostly ceremonial because the more common entrances to the city hall are through the entrances facing Burgos Avenue.

Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building

Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building in Manila old photo
Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building in Manila ca. 1900–1980 (Cliff Smith YMCA Postcard Collection)

East of the Manila City Hall is the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building. William E. Parsons was commissioned to design the building in 1909. The building was located at a lot now bounded by Natividad Lopez Street. Parsons designed a cluster of three buildings connected by a covered corridor. Facing the facade, to the right, was the athletic building, at the center was the main building, and to the left was the kitchen.

The main building was 45 by 13.5 meters. It housed private offices, lecture hall, library, and a billiard hall. The rear veranda ran the length of the main building and opened to the tennis courts. The second and third floors had rooms for rent, for men only. Each room had a balcony, but tenants shared common toilets and baths, parlor, and lecture halls. It could accommodate 65 guests. The athletic building was 20 by 25 meters. It had locker rooms, a shower, a 6 by 18-meter swimming pool, and a four-lane bowling alley. The second floor had a gym, the director’s office, and committee rooms. The athletic building was originally planned to have a roof garden, but Parsons changed it for the more practical hip roof. The project cost 170,000 pesos. The YMCA property was sold to SM Property Holdings, which demolished the YMCA building, which had been reconstructed and expanded after the war. Its location is now occupied by SM Manila mall.

National Museum of the Philippines Complex

Near the Manila City Hall, on the western side of Taft Avenue, is the National Museum of the Philippines Complex. Presently the National Museum is composed of three buildings. The main building, which is now the National Museum of Fine Arts and the museum’s main office, the National Museum of Anthropology, and the National Museum of Natural History.

National Museum of Fine Arts

1935 old photo poster showing the prewar Legislative Building, now the National Museum of Fine Arts
1935 poster showing the prewar Legislative Building, now the National Museum of Fine Arts (Nicanor G. Tiongson Collection)

The National Museum of Fine Arts and main building, formerly known as the National Art Gallery, has had many uses. It was formerly the Legislative Building, which housed the upper and lower chambers of Congress (1935-1945). It was the Office of the Vice President during martial law.

Located on P. Burgos Drive, the main building’s architects were Ralph Harrington Doane of the Bureau of Public Works, Antonio Toledo, and Juan Arellano. It is in the neoclassical and Greek revival styles. Construction of the main building began in 1918, but it was suspended several times because of lack of funding. The building was originally planned as the building for the National Library. When it was decided that the building would be used by the Legislature, the revision of the building plans was entrusted to Juan Arellano, then supervising architect of the Bureau. The building was inaugurated on 16 July 1926. By then, the construction had cost four million pesos.

The building was used for the 1934 Constitutional Convention. It was damaged during World War II. Since the war, the building has gone through different occupants. It was renamed Congress of the Philippines in the early years of the Republic. It housed the Senate, the Sandiganbayan and Tanod Bayan or Office of the Ombudsman. It was renamed the Executive House during the martial law years (1972-1986), when it served as the office of the Prime Minister.

This Greek revival building is noted for its columns that allude to Greek temples. The statues of the pediment, most of those in the Senate Hall, were by German sculptors Otto Fisher Credo and Walter Strauss. The statues at the pediment depicted the three regions of the Philippines—Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao—as allegorical female figures, similar to an earlier work, Madre Filipinas, formerly mounted on Jones Bridge. Other sculptural pieces were by Vidal Tampinco and Ramon Martinez. The murals in the Senate Hall were painted by Juan Arellano and Emilio Alvero. In the postwar reconstruction, only the main entrance at the center retained the detached columns, those at the sides were replaced with pilasters of the Corinthian order. In 1996, the Senate moved out of the building and it was turned over to the National Museum, which in 2003 began a restoration and architectural reuse of the historic building. Work on the Legislative building continues as more rooms are outfitted as galleries.

National Museum of Natural History

Agrifina Circle between the former Agriculture and Finance Buildings
Agrifina Circle between the former Agriculture and Finance Buildings (John Tewell Collection)

The former Department of Agriculture and Commerce Building, now the National Museum of Natural History, and the former Department of Finance Building, now the National Museum of Anthropology, on Agrifina Circle were built in 1934. Its architect, Antonio Mañalac Toledo, planned it in the neoclassical style with Greek Revival characteristics, same as the main building. The two buildings, which face each other, are actually mirror images of each other. Both use a convex Greek temple facade type that conforms to the Agrifina Circle or rotunda. The wide flights of stairs before both buildings are likewise convex. Six fluted Corinthian columns flanked by engaged and fluted pilasters rise to three stories creating a colonnade that leads to the entrance of the buildings. Four portals with semicircular lead doors lead to the interior, which is arranged around an open-air atrium that allows light to enter the building and flood the corridors that open to it. The atrium serves to ventilate the building better. A fourth story is in the attic of this building. Greek revival ornaments like dentils and wreathes and garlands decorate the building. Iron grille work relates the building to the bahay na bato.

National Museum of Anthropology

Old Photo of the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila
Old Photo of the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila ( 

The Department of Finance Building was turned over to the National Museum and was renovated and refurbished to become the anthropology, ethnography, history, and archaeology museum of the museum complex. Formerly the Museum of the Filipino People, it is now named the National Museum of Anthropology, and houses exhibits of different indigenous groups in the Philippines, major archaeological finds, and the wreck of the galleon San Diego.

Currently undergoing renovation, the Department of Agriculture Building will house the botany and zoology divisions of the museum and is now known as the National Museum of Natural History.

Santa Isabel College

Old photo of Santa Isabel College Building, Manila  Colored Postcard
Santa Isabel College, Manila (undated) Colored Postcard

South of the main building of the National Museum, and across from Rizal Park, in Taft Avenue’s eastern side is Santa Isabel College (210 Taft Avenue), which was established on 24 October 1632 in Intramuros. It was originally a school for orphaned Spanish girls, but soon after it accepted non-orphans. In 1733, the original school, which was built along Real del Palacio (its site is presently occupied by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines), received Royal Patronage and came to be known as the Real Colegio de Santa Isabel. On 22 July 1862, fifteen Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul (Madres Paules) took charge of the school. To the school had been aggregated Colegio de Santa Potenciana, which by then had few enrollees. The college buildings were totally destroyed in the shelling of Intramuros during World War II. The sisters took refuge in Santa Rita’s College, along Taft Avenue. In the postwar years, the sisters taught at Santa Rita and the former students of Santa Isabel enrolled in Santa Rita. The sisters acquired Santa Rita and changed its name to Santa Isabel College. By the 1950s, they had expanded the facilities of the school, adding an auditorium in 1953. Although the building is a postwar construction, its chapel houses an important cultural treasure, the Santo Cristo de Tesoro, formerly housed in the chapel of the treasury in Intramuros.

Jai-Alai Building

Old photo of Manila Jai Alai Building in Manila
Manila Jai Alai Building - built 1940, demolished 2000 (Wikipedia)

Jai-Alai was built in 1940, following the designs of American architects Welton Becket and Walter Wurdemann. It was in Streamline Moderne art deco. The building was demolished in 2000 after it had been closed and not used for three decades. Becket, known for his design of the Los Angeles Airport, built a building considered as one of Asia’s finest art deco buildings. Four stories tall, with a central section covered with structural glass blocks which housed the Sky Club, it was Manila’s place to be seen in its heyday. The building housed the courts for a Basque ball game, using a wicker scoop or pelota and a hard rubber ball, which was bounced against a wall. The game was visible to spectators. On the upper stories of the building was a restaurant and dance club, which was frequented by Manila’s high society. The building fell into disuse during the martial law years because President Ferdinand Marcos had banned the game. The building was deteriorating when it was demolished during the incumbency of Mayor Lito Atienza to make way for Hall of Justice. But nothing has been built on the site since the demolition. Behind the now empty lot, and between San Marcelino Church, is the site for the 43-story Torre de Manila condominum.

Ayala Boulevard Crossroad

Philippine Normal University

old photo of Philippine Normal School Building in Manila
Prewar Philippine Normal School Building completed in 1912, undated. (Photo from The Torch 1917 Yearbook, Indiana University Archives)

The Philippine Normal School (PNS) complex, presently, Philippine Normal University on Taft Avenue and Ayala Boulevard was built 1915, following the design William E. Parsons, who used elements from Mission revival and neoclassical styles. Created by Philippine Commission Act No. 74, PNS was established as a teacher-training school for the public school system that the American colonial government was organizing. PNS formally opened on 1 September 1901, with Elmer B. Bryan as its first superintendent. It was elevated to a college in 1948, and then a university in 1991.

The buildings of PNS both designed by Parsons were separated from each other by Ayala Boulevard. The school building follows a V-plan to conform to the layout of the street where Ayala Boulevard runs diagonally from Taft Avenue. The corner of the building is gracefully rounded. Characteristic of the Mission style, as adapted by Parsons, is the wide overhang of the pitched roof. The entrance facing Ayala Boulevard has a flat wall terminating in a rounded parapet. Arches decorate the front, as well as the inner corridors, of the school. The corridors lead to classrooms and arcaded corridors open to an inner courtyard. The dormitory across the main building is more classical in design, but the covered roof deck and the combination of wood and cement for the facade’s triple arched fenestrations, plus the wide overhang of the roof, make it akin to the Mission Revival style.

The Central Methodist Church

American-period Central United Methodist Church
American-period Central United Methodist Church (Leo Cloma Collection)

T. M. Kalaw Crossroad, Western Side of Taft. The Central Methodist Church on T. M. Kalaw (formerly San Luis) was built in 1906, following the design of C. B. Ripley. The original church structure was in the vernacular neo-Gothic, which simply meant it was built with wood. In 1932, this earlier structure was demolished and a new church of reinforced concrete was built. The new building was designed by Juan N. Arellano who, like Ripley, followed the neo-Gothic style.

The Methodist Church is the first Protestant church in the Philippines, founded 5 March 1899. Initially established to minister to American troops and migrants, the church grew in membership, so a lot was purchased on T. M. Kalaw, and a temporary chapel with a seating capacity of 150 was dedicated on 23 December 1901. As membership grew, the original church was built. It had a lower story of rusticated stone with external buttresses, and a gable floor with walls of wood planks. Its roof was steep and shingled, while the windows were lancet and had awning-type shutters. At the gable were oculi. This original structure lasted for three decades before it was finally replaced by the all-cement church designed by Arellano, which was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, on 19 June 1932.

Like its predecessor this new structure is cruciform. The church suffered damage in 1945. Its roof had completely collapsed, and its walls were singed by fire and riddled with bullet holes. On 21 February 1949, reconstruction work on the church began with funds raised with the assistance of the Council of Bishops in the US, the Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, the Bishop of Manila Central, and contributions from individual members. It took almost five months to rebuild the church, and it finally reopened on Christmas Day 1949. It was formally re-dedicated on 10 February 1950. A large lancet window at the facade brought light into the church and a smaller window, with stained glass decorated the apse. From the facade’s left radiated a cloister walk that connected the church to other structures in the compound.

Padre Faura Crossroad

The Supreme Court

Old Supreme Court building on Padre Faura Street in Manila
Old DFA Home Office (present-day Supreme Court building) on Padre Faura Street in Manila (DFA Philippines) 

The Supreme Court on Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura was built in 1913. Architect William Parsons used the neoclassical (Federal) style. This was originally part of the University of the Philippines (UP) campus. The Supreme Court, which was established in 1901, was housed in a number of locations before finally settling into its own building. The structure is characterized by its porches, which are decorated with Corinthian colonnades at the facade and Ionic colonnades at the sides.

Escuela Normal de San Francisco Xavier

Escuela Normal de San Francisco Xavier on Padre Faura Street was built in 1865 in the neoclassical style. Established in 1865 for the training of teachers for the newly opened primary schools supported by the government. It was closed in 1905, when Philippine Normal was opened by the government. In 1906, it became the first home of the reopened San Jose Seminary. After the 1932 fire that destroyed the Ateneo buildings in Intramuros, Ateneo was transferred to Ermita and shared facilities with San Jose. San Jose occupied a wing of the building until the seminary transferred to Santa Ana. The neoclassical building had a central arch portal at the center. The rest of the building was ornamented with pilasters alternating with windows, arched at the ground floor and rectangular at the upper floors. The building was destroyed because of heavy bombardment and fire in 1945. It was never rebuilt because Ateneo de Manila had transferred to Quezon City.

Observatorio de Manila

old photo of Manila Observatory Observatorio de Manila on Padre Faura
Manila Observatory with staff – c.1930s (Manila Nostalgia)

Observatorio de Manila on Padre Faura was built in 1886, and an astronomical observatory was added in 1891. Architect Ruperto Ibañez designed it in the neo-Renaissance style. Begun in the Jesuits’ Casa Mision in Intramuros by Federico Faura when he was still a seminarian, the Manila Observatory transferred to Padre Faura in 1884, where the Jesuits had earlier built the Escuela Normal de San Francisco. The successful forecast and tracking of typhoons in 1879 brought the support of merchants to the project. In 1880, the Observatory began sending its predictions to Hong Kong via cable. The Observatory became an important institution in the region as a result. In 1884, it received government support, which allowed it to build bigger quarters in Ermita, which were inaugurated in 1886. The same year, Father Faura designed a home version of the barometer, which was popular among seafarers.

In 1891, an astronomical department was added, but it was housed in a separate building. On 13 June 1894, an 18-inch astronomical lens arrived from Mertz of Switzerland for the observatory. This simple neoclassical building was destroyed in 1945. In the 1950s, the Observatory re-opened at Mirador Hill, Baguio. In 1961, it transferred to the Ateneo de Manila University Campus in Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

Philippine General Hospital (PGH)

Flood around Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Taft Avenue
Flood around Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Taft Avenue c1910-1915 (University of Michigan Library Special Collections)

Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Taft Avenue was built in 1910. Its initial architect was Edgar Bourne, but he was succeeded by William Parsons. The building style is mission revival. The PGH was established through Philippine Commission Act No. 1668, which set aside 780,000 pesos for its construction. The cornerstone was laid on 28 February 1908. As designed by Parsons, PGH runs almost a whole block of Taft Avenue, from Padre Faura to Pedro Gil. The southern end of the block is occupied by University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, whose College of Medicine has PGH as its partner hospital, where its medical interns train. PGH was designed as a light-filled and airy space where cross-ventilation allowed air to flow efficiently and well, as the assumption was that stale air was inimical to human health. Like the tsalet built during the era, the building was raised above the damp earth. The original building had two high-ceiling floors. The central wing housed the central administration, and it led to a central area for common facilities. From this central core branched out pavilions with separate courtyards. Each pavilion housed a department—surgical, orthopedic, medical, and maternity. Connecting the pavilions with administration were wide arcaded galleries.

In 1981, then First Lady Imelda Marcos commissioned Jorge Ramos to create a master plan for the renovation and expansion of PGH. An additional eight-story tower block was built behind the 1910 building. It was completed in 1990. PGH continued adding facilities so that by 2011, it had more than 13 departments and specialized units.

Nurses Home

old photo of Nurses Home Building on Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura
Nurses Home on Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura

Nurses Home on Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura was built in 1915. Architect Tomas Mapua designed it in neo-rennaissance style. Built beside PGH, it was a dormitory for nurses assigned to PGH and for those in training. Designed as three stories, the ground floor was recessed and taller than the second and third floors. The facade was defined by an arcade on the ground floor, and by the repetition of the arches in the balustraded third floor. The second floor had rectangular windows. Both ends of the building stood in contrast to the rest by being more enclosed and ornamented with rustication at the corner. Entrance to the building was through a grand arch flanked by engaged columns surmounted by classicist statuary.

University of the Philippines along Padre Faura Street

University of the Philippines along Padre Faura Street, Manila
University of the Philippines along Padre Faura Street, Manila (Philippine Picture Post Cards: 1900-1920 by Jonathan Best. The Bookmark, Inc., 1994.)

UP was established through a charter in 1908, and its first building was supposed to be located on the corner of Padre Faura and Taft Avenue, but it now houses the Supreme Court. Architect William E. Parsons designed the building in the neoclassical style. The UP Manila campus on Pedro Gil (formerly Herran), as it is known now, was acquired soon after the university moved from Malecon (now Bonifacio Drive). The new campus was built in 1910, and integrated the previously existing College of Medicine (now Calderon Hall) and the School of Fine Arts and Conservatory of Music (Villamor Hall), both of which were established in 1905, predating UP. Architect Juan Arellano designed Calderon and Villamor Hall, using neoclassical and neorenaissance styles respectively. The sculptures of the muses of music and art which flank the entrance to Villamor Hall were done by Guillermo Tolentino.

The location of the UP campus placed it next door to the PGH, which was soon placed under a joint administration with UP, as PGH served as the teaching hospital for the university’s College of Medicine. The building of the college is now named Calderon Hall, in honor of its first dean, Fernando Calderon. The college functioned all throughout World War II, though its building suffered damage during the war. It was rehabilitated in 1951. A monumental version of Jose Rizal’s Science Conquering Death stands in front of the college.

Pedro Gil (formerly Herran) Crossroad

Ellinwood Church

The Ellinwood Church Malate, Manila
The Ellinwood Church Malate, Manila circa 1946-49 (Postwar)

Pedro Gil (formerly Herran) Crossroad, Western Side of Taft. Ellinwood Church on Vasquez, near Pedro Gil was built in 1932 in the neo-Gothic style favored by Protestant churches. Ellinwood Church was one of a few structures that survived World War II, despite heavy bombing and fighting in the Malate district in 1945, during the liberation of Manila. The church began in the summer of 1899 when Reverend Dr. James B. Rodgers arrived in Manila to begin the American Presbyterian mission in the Philippines. The first Presbyterian areas of the mission were Binondo and the Ermita-Malate area. From there, missions were opened in Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Bicol, the Visayas and Mindanao.

Two structures were built on Vasquez: Ellinwood Boy’s Dormitory and the Ellinwood Bible School for Girls. Sunday services in English were held at the dormitory. A separate Tagalog service for those living in the Ermita-Malate area was also held. The need for a bigger church became crucial as the congregation grew. In 1927, plans were made to build a bigger sanctuary, realized five years later with Reverend Catalino Paulino, Ellinwood’s first Filipino pastor. Spared from the war, Ellinwood reopened in 1945, with the return of the Americans. Reverend Bousman briefly resumed his pastoral duties, followed by Reverend Christie until 1946. The church is in the neo-Gothic style preferred by Protestant churches. Its facade has large lancet windows with tracery filled with glass. Its hammer beam ceiling gives it a distinctive look.

The Ellinwood Malate Church (EMC) is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the country. It is one of the local churches of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), presently located at Vasquez St., Malate, Manila.The church was named after Rev. Dr. Francis F. Ellinwood, Senior Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, who was instrumental in the sending of Presbyterian missions to the Philippines.

According to church records, he was also part of a committee of eminent men who urged US President William McKinley to observe religious freedom in the Philippines and implement benevolent policies in governance.

In 1906, the Ellinwood Bible School for Girls and the Ellinwood Boys’ Dormitory were built in his honor despite the fact that he has never set foot in the country.

An American worshipping congregation was also named after him, which later merged with the Malate Congregation composed of Filipinos in the 1920s to form the Ellinwood Malate Church.

Formally organized in 1907, EMC’s roots actually date back to the early 1900s when house churches were established in Manila by pioneer Presbyterian missionary Rev. Dr. James Rodgers after Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States.

Like a rolling stone that gathers no moss, Ellinwood Malate Church has evolved from a house church to a student congregation and later a mixed community, a trademark of its enduring vibrant character.

In 1921, worship services were transferred to the chapel of the Tooker Hall in the present-day PCU Union High School in Malvar St., which became home to the community for more than a decade.

Professionals, businessmen and workers were integrated to the constituency of the church, thus increasing its membership and necessitating the construction of a permanent sanctuary. A church was built and subsequently dedicated on January 8, 1932.

During the liberation of Manila in 1945, the church was miraculously spared from destruction as if shielded by the hands of God himself. As most parts of the city were flattened by the bombings of the Allied Forces, Ellinwood stood tall amidst the rubble of war.

Saint Paul’s College

Chapel of the Crucified Christ at Saint Paul’s College on Pedro Gil Manila
Chapel of the Crucified Christ at Saint Paul’s College on Pedro Gil Manila

Saint Paul’s College on Pedro Gil has the Chapel of the Crucified Christ by Andres Luna de San Pedro built in the art deco style in 1927. On 25 June 1911, the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres, a congregation of nuns from France, opened a novitiate on Pedro Gil (Herran) in the Malate district. Responding to requests to open a school for girls from families in the neighborhood, the sisters began with a kindergarten department in 1912. This was followed by Grade 1, with one higher grade opening each successive year. Male students were accepted up to Grade 2. By 1919, the school had a complete grade school department, and earned recognition as a school. The high school department opened in 1924, and had its first graduates in 1928.

On 24 January 1927, a chapel was built on school grounds, through the efforts of Mother Saint Xavier, the Provincial Superior. The chapel has the general silhouette of the zigzag style and smooth angular lines of art deco, but it adds large lancet windows over which is a cement cast crucifix in the art deco style of Beuron, surrounded by a ray of light. A pair of angels in the art deco style kneels at the bottom of the monumental crucifix.

Apparently, the prewar school buildings were modest structures of wood because on 27 February 1945, Japanese troops obliterated the compound by fire, leaving only the facade of the chapel standing but scorched. On 27 June 1948, the restored chapel was blessed by Most Reverend Michael J. O’Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. The rest of the school building was rebuilt, but in modern style, beginning with the administration building in 1952. The school’s chapel was marked by National Historical Institute (NHI) in 2007.

Assumption College

Assumption College on Pedro Gil corner Adriatico Manila
 Assumption College on Pedro Gil corner Adriatico Manila

Assumption College on Pedro Gil corner Adriatico (formerly Dakota) was built in the neo-Gothic style. In 1892, the Congregation of the Religious of the Assumption founded on 30 April 1839 by Saint Marie-Eugenie de Jesus (1817-1898) arrived in the Philippines to run the Superior Normal School for Women in Intramuros. At the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, the Assumption sisters returned to Europe and ceased operating the school. But in 1904, at the request of Pope Saint Pius X, the sisters returned to Manila, where they opened an elementary and secondary school, adding a college department in 1940. Before the outbreak of the war, the sisters had built a school along the lines of collegiate gothic, in which gothic motifs like lancet windows and gothic-type cloisters were added to a functional structure. These prewar buildings occupied a campus adjacent to the Ateneo de Manila, which had a gate at Adriatico and a main entrance facing Padre Faura. Damaged in 1945, during the liberation of Manila like its neighbor Ateneo, Assumption re-opened classes in quonset huts and in its ruined auditorium. Under mother superior Rosa Maria, one of the pioneers who arrived in 1904, the buildings were rebuilt in 1947 and by 1948 were ready for occupancy. In 1973, Assumption, which had campuses in San Lorenzo and Antipolo, moved out of the Pedro Gil Campus. The property was sold to a developer and the buildings have been demolished to make way for Robinson’s Place Manila. The Assumption Herran campus is best remembered for its manicured garden, which had a small lagoon, and for the high-ceiling room and arcaded corridors with lancet arches, decorated at the springing with fleur de lys medallions.

Between Malvar and Nakpil, Eastern Side of Taft

Philippine Women’s University (PWU)

Philippine Women’s University (PWU) old building
Philippine Women's College Building c. 1933

Philippine Women’s University (PWU) was founded in 1919 by Clara Aragon, Concepcion Aragon, Francisca Tirona Benitez, Paz Marquez Benitez, Carolina Ocampo Palma, Mercedes Rivera and Socorro Marquez Zaballero with the assistance of lawyer Jose Abad Santos, who would be appointed by President Manuel Quezon as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court just before World War II. In 1932, the school became a university. PWU was the first all-women’s school founded to empower women. The university building occupied a whole block along Taft Avenue, bounded by Malvar to the north, Nakpil to the south, and Leon Guinto to the east. The university building is built around an enclosed open space with the buildings forming the perimeter of the compound. The building in the neoclassical style continued to function intermittently during the war, and was converted to a hospital, the Pagamutan ng Maynila. Damaged during the war, the buildings were restored. In the 1970s, extra floors were added to the buildings.

Between Nakpil and Remedios

Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge

Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge Manila
Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge Manila

Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge, Macario R. Ramos Memorial Lodge No. 355 on Taft Avenue was built in the art deco geometric style. Masonry made its way to the Philippines during the 19th century. Many heroes, like Dr. Jose Rizal and M. H. del Pilar, were masons. The lodge belongs to the Scottish rite. The temple is divided into three parts. The central section rises above the flanks, and is projected forward. Three bays of narrow but tall windows separated by flat walls bring light into the buildings flanks, while a similar arrangement is also found in the central section. The ground floor of the central section is the entrance to the temple. This entrance is covered by a canopy. The corners of the building and the projected central section are also projected outwards even more to form decorative terminations for the sections. Geometrically stylized garlands decorate the building.

Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz) Crossroad

De La Salle University

De La Salle College before World War II
De La Salle College before World War II (Leo Cloma Collection)

Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz) Crossroad, Western Side of Taft. De La Salle University’s Main Building on Taft Avenue was built in 1936. Its architect, Tomas Mapua, designed it in the neoclassical style. As planned by Mapua, De La Salle has an H-shaped building. The central entrance located at the center of the main wing and the ends of the buildings perpendicular to the main wing had a Greek-temple-type facade. The lower floor was arcaded but the upper floor, which had generous corridors leading to classrooms were ornamented with engaged Corinthian pilasters, which contrasted with the free standing columns of the main entrance and the facades of the flanking wings.

Rizal Memorial Stadium

Rizal Memorial Stadium Manila
Rizal Memorial Stadium Manila

Rizal Memorial Stadium on Pablo Ocampo was built in 1934 and was designed by architects of the Bureau of Public Works in the art deco style. Built on land donated by the Vito Cruz Family, which was formerly known as Carnival Ground, the main stadium was originally built as the Rizal Memorial Tennis Stadium. The fully developed complex had a soccer field, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a baseball diamond, track files, and a covered area for basketball. It was used for the Far Eastern Championship Games, a precursor to the ASEAN Games.

The complex was a theater of World War II atrocities, when Japanese herded civilians to the area to be massacred. Damaged by war, the sports complex was rehabilitated and continues to function. The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which manages the complex, has announced that the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) as it is now called, will be sold soon.

Eastern Side of Taft

Saint Scholastica’s College

Saint Scholastica’s College Chapel Manila
Saint Scholastica’s College Chapel

The Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing sent five sisters to the Philippines who arrived on 14 September 1906. The sisters opened a school in a wagon-shed along Moriones Street, Tondo, where they had an initial enrollment of 58 boys and girls in total. The following year they transferred to San Marcelino, in a lot donated by Archbishop Jeremias Harty of Manila. In 1909, the school gained government recognition, and in 1914, school buildings rose on Church property in Singalong along Leon Guinto (formerly Pennsylvania) that would become Saint Scholastica’s College. The buildings were in the neo-Romanesque style, especially the school chapel whose open vestibule had columns in the medieval style. The use of arches characterized the chapel and school complex.

Saint Cecilia’s Hall

Saint Cecilia’s Hall
Saint Cecilia’s Hall

In 1909, the Conservatory of Music was established by Sister Baptista Battig, OSB, a pupil of the German composer and pianist Franz Listz. In 1932, the art deco Saint Cecilia’s Hall was built for the conservatory. Its fine acoustics made it very suitable for concert performances. Damaged in 1945 by American bombardment, architect Roberto Novenario and engineer Ramon del Rosario undertook its restoration. The hall reopened in 1955. From 1998 to 2000, the hall underwent extensive restoration and upgrading, re-opening on 16 July 2000. In 1999, the NHI declared Saint Cecilia’s Hall a National Cultural Landmark.

San Marcelino-Leon Guinto (formerly Pennsylvania) Corridor

San Marcelino and Leon Guinto, the main north to south artery, east and parallel to Taft Avenue, developed as a planned community, an antecedent of the gated communities of the post-World War II era.

Paco Cemetery

Old photo of Paco Cemetery on San Marcelino Manila
Old photo of Paco Cemetery on San Marcelino Manila

Paco Cemetery on San Marcelino’s eastern side was built in 1823 in the neoclassical style. During the 19th century, with the growing awareness of the spread of disease, cemeteries were constructed at the outskirts of cities and towns, away from the populated centers. The cemetery at Dilao, as Paco was called back then, was no sooner completed when it became the burial grounds of many cholera victims. The cemetery was planned as two concentric circular stonewalls enclosing a patio, into which were built niches for the dead: the inner wall for Spaniards, and the outer wall for Filipinos. The cemetery has a special place for children called Angelitos and for exhumed bones, the Ossario. National hero Dr. Jose Rizal was temporarily interred in the Paco Cemetery, from 30 December 1896 to 17 August 1898, when his remains were exhumed to be eventually buried in the Rizal Monument at Luneta on 29 December 1912. The cemetery has been restored and reused as a park.

Technological University of the Philippines (TUP)

The Philippine School of Arts and Trade, presently known as the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) Manila
The Philippine School of Arts and Trade, presently known as the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP)

The Philippine School of Arts and Trade, presently known as the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), on Ayala Boulevard and San Marcelino Street, was built in 1914 in Mission revival style. Built to professionalize the trades and crafts, the school had counterparts in other places in the Philippines, which were established to foment the growth of industry in the Philippines.

Adamson University

Old photo of Adamson University
Adamson University, circa 1950 (Colorized by Kiko del Rosario)

In 1932, George Adamson, a Greek chemist from Athens, and his brother Alex established Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering (ASICE, now simply Adamson University) at the Paterno Building (FEATI) at Plaza Goiti. It moved to various locations as the student population grew. From Plaza Goiti, it moved to the Goldenberg Mansion on General Solano Street, San Miguel from 1933 to 1939. Then it moved to the Augustinian treasury and Asian headquarters on Arsobispo and Real del Parian in Intramuros. The school was raised to university status in 1941.

Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry
Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry

In 1946, after World War II, Adamson University transferred to 900 San Marcelino. In 1964, administration transferred to the Vincentians, who ran the San Marcelino Parish of Saint Vincent de Paul, located next to Adamson. From 1964 to 1967, George Lucas Adamson served as transitional president. In 1968, Adamson acquired the Meralco Building and, in 1977, Saint Theresa’s College Manila. The 1946 building of Adamson is in the neoclassical style characterized by arched windows on the lower two floors and double arches on the second. The main entrance is in the Greek temple style with flanking Corinthian pilasters and a triangular plain pediment.

Saint Theresa’s College

St.Theresa's College Manila
St.Theresa's College - 1930s
Saint Theresa’s College on 920 San Marcelino stood directly in front of Adamson. It was a school established by Mother Louise de Meester from Belgium. She first landed in Ilocos Sur where she began her missionary work. In 1915, she went to Manila to establish Saint Theresa’s in response to the invitation of Manila archbishop Jeremiah James Harty. The Saint Theresa’s building was functional and straightforward. The main building was built around two atriums and the three-story facade was flanked by towers. An additional building south of the main building also enclosed an atrium. The three-story main building has an arcaded ground floor. The upper two stories have rectangular windows distributed following a modular plan where the windows were separated by pillars. Facing the atrium is an arcaded corridor, which leads to the classrooms.

Meralco Building

Old photo of Meralco Building in Manila
Meralco Building, built in 1936 (CCP Collections)

Meralco Building on San Marcelino was built in 1936. Its architect, Andres Luna de San Pedro, designed it in art deco. Its facade was decorated by a sculpture by Francesco Ricardo Monti titled The Furies. The building belongs to the Streamline moderne type of art deco. The northern end is taller than the rest of the building. Above the doorway rises a plinth with a four-story narrow window. Above the plinth, in script, is the word “Meralco.” The plinth cascades northwards ending in a graceful arch. Composed on a diagonal to the arch is Monti’s The Furies. The rest of the building running south is lower than the plinth. The lower floor is a covered walkway over which hangs the second story and supported by pillars. The canopy of the building is decorated with a frieze that has been interpreted as stylized railroad tracks or eyes. Its wrought iron grilles have stylized foliage.

The art deco head office of Meralco, the biggest electric distribution company in Luzon, survived World War II only to be demolished by the wrecking crew of a redeveloper that plans to build a 32-story high-rise. The building was demolished in 2014.

San Marcelino Church or Parish Church of Saint Vincent de Paul

Old photo San Vicente de Paul Church on San Marcelino Street, Manila
San Vicente de Paul Church on San Marcelino Street, Manila (Photo courtesy of Mello Villareal)

San Marcelino Church or Parish Church of Saint Vincent de Paul was built in 1926. Architect Andres Luna de San Pedro designed it in neoromanesque style. Originally part of San Fernando de Dilao (Paco), the parish was established on 6 December 1909 by Archbishop Jeremiah J. Harty of Manila. In 1872, the Vincentians bought land at Barrio San Marcelino, which was mostly rice fields, to house seminarians and Vincentians whose dwelling at the San Carlos Seminary in Intramuros was damaged by an 1880 earthquake, which almost leveled Intramuros. The Vincentians built a central house and chapel. During the Philippine revolution (1896-1898), the Vincentians fled for safety and left San Marcelino. Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda asked the Vincentians after the Philippine-American War to take charge of Paco parish, but because the Americans had destroyed the church and convent during the hostilities, the parish was temporarily housed in San Marcelino. The chapel of the central house became the parish church. After a decade, Paco was entrusted to the Belgian Fathers (CICM), who built the present church and convento.

In response to bishop Harty’s creation of the San Marcelino parish, the Vincentians took charge of the parish and it has been under them since. The church built around the time of the creation of the parish was a simplified version of the neoclassical. Its pilasters were ornamented with simplified Tuscan columns. Its windows and doors used rounded arches. Distinct features of the facade were a rose window and flanking quadrilateral towers. Its uppermost floor was of a smaller dimension than the lower floors and opened to a balustraded balcony. A conical roof crowned the bell tower. The church had rounded transept ends and at the crossing rose a dome, sheathed in galvanized iron.

In 1935, a port cochere embellished with engaged Corinthian capitals was added to the church as a convenience to the many who chose San Marcelino as a site for weddings. The area that had developed as a fashionable and upscale place to live in. In 1945, the church was badly damaged by the bombing. In 1946, the dome, bell towers, and roof were restored and stained glass windows installed. Repairs continued in the years that followed. The latest repairs were done in 2007 and 2008, when the church was retrofitted, wooden roof trusses replaced with steel, and a blue-colored long-span galvanized roof replaced the old roof.

Maryknoll College

St. Mary's Hall, Manila
St. Mary's Hall, Manila, 1946 (

Maryknoll College (reused) was built around 1940 in the art deco style. In 1926, Manila Archbishop Michael O’Doherty invited the Sisters of the Maryknoll Congregation to run a teacher-training program for women. Under the archbishop and with his support, the Malabon Normal School was established in the old Augustinian convento of San Bartolome Parish. Because the archbishop was unable to support the school, the sisters assumed full financial control of the school and transferred it to Isaac Peral (United Nations Avenue). The Malabon school became St. James Academy. Damaged by war, the school buildings were no longer useable so the sisters rented a private house on Fernando Rein Street, adding quonset huts to accommodate an increasing student population. After World War II, Maryknoll opened new buildings at Leon Guinto and Josefa Llanes Escoda (Pennsylvania and California). The Manila campus main building was two stories with designs borrowed from art deco, characterized by chamfered lintels. A wooden two-story annex was stylistically similar to the stick houses of the American period. The sisters managed Saint Mary’s Hall, a dormitory for women at 602 Pennsylvania. In 1953, Maryknoll College opened a campus on Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The Manila campus was closed. In 1977, Maryknoll was turned over to lay ownership and administration and renamed Miriam College.

The Manila Club

Manila Club on San Marcelino Manila
Manila Club (Manila Nostalgia)

The Manila Club on San Marcelino was built in 1908. Architect William E. Parsons designed the club in the neoclassical style. Referred to as the British Club, English Club, European Club or Club de los Ingleses, the club was in existence as early as 1877 and had been housed in different places, including a location at Calle Nagtahan and Estero Valencia (presently a narrow estero parallel to Valencia Street in Santa Mesa). From there the club moved to Ermita in 1896, to the house once occupied by Enrique Zobel. It moved to a four-hectare property on San Marcelino and Marquis de Comillas (now Romualdez). The American period Manila Club was a severe neoclassical building with an arcade at the ground floor and a recessed upper story with a balustraded balcony in front. It had guest rooms, bowling alley, billiard rooms, library, lounge, tennis court, and a bar named The Snake Pit.

It was an exclusive club for British men and had a sign saying “No women and no dogs.” The club sponsored team sports like lawn tennis, soccer, and cricket. The club was destroyed during World War II but was restored by Pablo Antonio in 1948, who modified Parson’s severe plan to make it more welcoming. In 1968, the club sold its building to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes.


  • Alcazaren, Paulo, ed. 2013. Parks for a Nation: The Rizal Park and 50 Years of the National Parks Development Committee. Manila: National Parks Development Committee.
  • Gopal, Lou. 2014. Manila Nostalgia. Accessed 10 December.
  • ———. 2015b. Manila Nostalgia. Accessed January 16.
  • Ira, Luning B. 1977. Streets of Manila. Photographs by Nik Ricio. Contributors, Isagani Medina and Nik Ricio. Manila: GCF Books.
  • Lico, Gerard. 2008. Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
  • This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition. Title: Taft Avenue Heritage Area. Author/s: René B. Javellana (2018). Publication Date: November 18, 2020. URL:

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