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Architectural Gems of Escolta: Manila's Timeless Heritage

Escolta is on the southern portion of the district of Binondo, Manila and is attached to Chinatown to the north. This area on the northern bank of the Pasig was once the property of Jose Damaso Gorricho and Ciriaca Santos of Imus, Cavite. Damaso Gorricho was quartermaster of the Spanish army and his wife Ciriaca provided fodder or zacate grass for the horses of the army. To meet the demands of the army, Ciriaca purchased land on the north bank of the Pasig where she had zacate planted. This area became Escolta.

Prewar Escolta Street with cars, tranvia or streetcar, and horse-drawn caretela
Prewar Escolta Street with cars, tranvia or streetcar, and horse-drawn caretela (John Tewell Collection)

Both Escolta and Chinatown are bounded by two esteros or brooks that feed into the Pasig River: Estero de Binondo to the west and Estero de la Reina to the east. Escolta is linked to the southern bank of the Pasig and Intramuros by Jones Bridge, which replaced an earlier bridge, Puente de España, which was damaged by floods in 1914. Construction of the new bridge commenced in 1916, following the neoclassical design of Juan Arellano. The bridge was located one block downriver from the original site of the older bridge.

The name “Escolta” derives from a road that ran from the northern flank of Intramuros across the Puente de España and veered right or east toward Santa Cruz. Escolta meant military escort. The Escolta heritage area is defined by Escolta Street, and streets parallel—Dasmariñas, Muelle de la Industria, and Muelle Banco Nacional – and streets perpendicular to it—Muelle de Binondo, Juan Luna (formerly Anlouagui), and Quintin Paredes Road (formerly Rosario), Yuchengco, T. Pinpin, and Burke. A bridge connects Escolta over the Estero de la Reina to the Santa Cruz district, formerly Isla de Romero, and Plaza Goiti, where the Roman Santos Building stands. This building is considered part of the Escolta area.

The Escolta developed when Binondo, beginning in the last quarter of the 19th century, became Manila’s premier business district. Binondo experienced commercial and economic growth with stores and business offices of British, American, German, and French companies opening there. Salon de Pertierra was one of these pioneer businesses, located on the ground floor of the Casino España, at No. 12 Escolta. It brought the first “motion pictures” to the Philippines in January 1897. The 19th century buildings were in the bahay na bato (stone house) idiom. These mixed-use structures typically had the lower floor dedicated to business and the upper floor set aside as dwelling. By the early 20th century, these buildings were replaced by multistory and multiuse commercial and office buildings. Escolta’s attraction was its access to the riverside wharfs on the north and south banks of the Pasig. They were called Muelle de la Industria, which was begun in the 19th century but improved by the Americans in the early 20th century.

Before Escolta’s boom in the 20th century, the area fell into a brief period of decline, when bars and dance halls were opened to cater to the American troops at the end of Filipino-American war. Governor Howard Taft (governor 1901 to 1904) cleaned up Escolta by barring all saloons from Escolta, turning it back to a respectable commercial area.

The heyday of Escolta was before World War II, known as peacetime. In this area, buildings reflecting the architectural trends of the era rose; from the staid neoclassic to the more avant-garde, art deco.

Don Roman Santos on Plaza Goiti

Plaza Goiti at the back of the Santa Cruz Church, with streetcars on the right, and, on the left, the Grecian temple-inspired building, later to be incorporated into the Don Roman Santos Building
Plaza Goiti at the back of the Santa Cruz Church, with streetcars on the right, and, on the left, the Grecian temple-inspired building, later to be incorporated into the Don Roman Santos Building (Edward Delos Santos/Pinoy Kollektor)

Don Roman Santos on Plaza Goiti was built in 1887 following the plans of a number of architects. First was Juan Hervas, then Andres Luna de San Pedro and Enrique J. I. Ruiz. It is neoclassical in style. The original building was one story, characterized by a Grecian temple facade at the center. In 1937, ownership of the building was acquired by the Consolidated Investment Corporation and the one-story building was redesigned as a nine-story structure and named after Consolidated. Andres Luna de San Pedro designed the remodeled building and engineer Jose Cortez took charge of construction. When war broke out on 8 December 1941, work on the building stopped at the fourth floor. During the war, Japanese forces occupied the building and used it as a warehouse. In 1944, the property was acquired by the Magdalena Estate. After the war it was used by the American Red Cross as a hospital until 1947.

On 2 July 1952, Prudential Bank and Trust Company, under Roman R. Santos, founder and chairman, opened the ground floor as the head office of the bank and on 3 January 1955, the Magdalena Estate sold the property to Prudential. From then on it came to be known as the Roman R. Santos Building. When Augusto A. Santos became president of the Roman R. Santos Building Administration, he proceeded to complete the unfinished building. Because architect Luna de San Pedro had died, architectural supervision was given to Enrique J. I. Ruiz. The nine-story building was completed in 1957. In 1961, the basement, ground floor, and mezzanine were remodeled following the plans of the firm of Gabriel Formoso and Associates. Construction was under Engrineer David Consunji. Over the years and many stages of remodeling, the building has retained its neoclassical lines. The original Grecian temple facade at the center of the first story has been repaired, reinforced, and retained. Flanking it are rusticated arcades, using the semicircular arches, four arches on either side. The corner arches are recessed. The upper stories all have quadrilateral windows with a decorative balustrade. Defining the upper stories are engaged pillars terminating in a stylized capital of foliage.

Perez Samanillo, presently First United Building 

Perez Samanillo, presently First United Building on Escolta Sreet was built from 1928 to 1930. The architect, Andres Luna de San Pedro and Fernando Ocampo, opted for art deco. The building was well known because its first floor housed Berg’s Department Store, considered as Manila’s classiest department store. Berg was established in 1901 by Ernest Berg, a German. Berg moved into the area vacated by Lyric Music Store, the original tenant. The Perez Samanillo had two light wells flanking the central tower and a chamfered corner marked by a lower tower. The elevator shaft was in the central tower. The eye-catching features of the building are the embellishments on the facade, the chamfered corner, and the original top story. The embellishments consist of triple thin pillars rising from the ground to the topmost floor and terminating in a framed relief of stylized plants. Above the corner and the main door is a truncated triangular pediment beneath a parapet flanked by twin finials. This parapet, equivalent to a sixth story, has an elongated octagonal window. The original parapet seen in vintage photographs was not straight but alternately rose and fell, creating the style reminiscent of the ziggurat strain of art deco. The building was put up for sale in 1979, and was purchased by Sy Lianteng, who had acquired Berg’s in 1951. The building has been restored recently, its lobby and elevator rehabilitated. It now stands as an example of what well-planned conservation can do to preserve a building’s beauty and utility.

Escolta Street looking down from Escolta Bridge, showing the Regina Building on the left, and in front of it, the Perez-Samanillo Building on the right
Escolta Street looking down from Escolta Bridge, showing the Regina Building on the left, and in front of it, the Perez-Samanillo Building on the right (Edward Delos Santos/Pinoy Kollektor)

Regina Building, formerly Roxas Building

Regina Building, formerly Roxas Building, stood on Escolta corner Banqueo Street, in front of the Perez Samanillo Building. The building occupied a whole block up to David (Burke). The Regina building was constructed on the site of a three-story bahay na bato, owned by Carmen de Ayala Roxas, the widow of Pedro P. Roxas Castro. The house was remodeled by 1905, and had two wings: a concrete building facing David (Burke Street) and the Pasig and was occupied by the offices of Roxas y Cia and Pedro P. Roxas Cia. The other wing faced the Estero de la Reina and Plaza Santa Cruz. With the death of the matriarch Doña Carmen in 1930, the property was sold to Jose Leoncio de Leon, an industrialist from Pampanga. Under De Leon, the building was expanded to fill the whole block and an additional floor added in 1934. De Leon renamed the building after his first wife, Regina. Following the plan of Andres Luna de San Pedro, the expanded and remodeled building was neoclassical. Later, the section of the building facing the Pasig was renovated following the plans of Fernando H. Ocampo. The section facing the Pasig was rented by Pacific Motors, dealer of General Motors vehicles, whose Cadillac was a prestigious status symbol. Regina Building rises to four stories. It has four wings arranged around an air well in the atrial style. The wings form an irregular quadrilateral because it traces the perimeter of the lot on which it is built. Three of the building’s corners are chamfered. The two corners facing Escolta are surmounted by domed towers – the one along Burke is shorter than the one facing Estero de la Reina. True to the neoclassical idiom, tall arcades with Roman arches define the exterior of the building. This rhythm of arches is broken by the chamfered corners. The corner at Escolta and Estero de la Reina is the distinctive signature of the building. Here the arch stretches from the second to the fourth floor framing a recessed entrance, marked by Corinthian columns. The tower, effectively the fifth floor, is crowned by a hemispherical dome, which has a balustraded balcony at its base. The shorter tower at Burke rests above a projecting corner, designed as half of a hexagon, which rises from the second to the fourth floor. The upper stories rest on a ground floor, which has a covered arcade.

Burke Building

Burke Building on Escolta Street was built in 1919, following the plans of American architect William James Odom, on a lot which the family had owned since 1723. Named after the cardiologist and philanthropist William J. Burke, it was the first building to have an elevator in Manila. The building was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt in 1949. Compared to other buildings in Escolta, the Burke building is simple. Its walls are not ornamented, and except for a chamfered corner terminating in a parapet which bears the building’s name, there is not much by way of the more common pre-World War II motifs from the neoclassical, the Beaux-Arts, art nouveau, or art deco.

Calvo Building

Calvo Building on Escolta corner Soda Street was built in 1938 following the plans of architects Fernando H. Ocampo and Tomas Arguelles. The building is in Beaux-Arts style. Located in front of the Crystal Arcade, the original building was three stories high, but an additional story brought it to four. It was built at the initiative of Edificio Calvo who hired Ocampo as architect. It housed the first radio station of DZBB-AM from 1950 to 1957, when DZBB transferred to Quezon City. As a Beaux Arts building it employs neoclassical motifs but embellished. The building is defined by two-story Roman arches that are repeated along the facade and the side. Pilasters with Ionic capitals flank these arches. The upper part of the arches or the second floor is used as fenestration with static and operable glass windows. On the second floor, the arches are separated from the third floor by an encircling band. However, this band is broken at four places, by shields or cartouches, linked to the Ionic pilasters by garlands. The Ionic capitals are likewise ornamented with garlands. The third floor and the additional fourth have little ornament except for the pilasters, which have no capitals. The windows on these floors are quadrilateral. Likewise, the chamfered corner of the building uses quadrilateral windows. Above it, the encircling band rises to form an arch, thus providing a counterpoint to the broken band. The building was restored around 2013. It houses the Escolta Museum, which has models of the buildings in Escolta and vintage photographs of the area. It was marked by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2018.

Capitol Theater

Capitol Theater on 245 Escolta Street was built in 1930 following the plans of architect Juan Nakpil. It follows a variant style of art deco called Zigzag Moderne. The facade has a central tower topped with a ziggurat and decorated with grille work at the center. Two bas-reliefs representing sound and cinema, attributed to Francesco Monti, Italian sculptor and professor at the University of Santo Tomas, flank the grilled center. However, Lico (2008, 331) attributes the relief and lobby sculptures to Severino Fabie. In the theater’s lobby was a mural, Rising Philippines, a collaborative work of artists Victorio C. Edades, Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco, and Galo B. Ocampo, who would be identified as the leading modern painters against the conservatives represented by painter Fernando Amorsolo and sculptor Guillermo Tolentino. Considered as the best theater in Manila, Capitol Theater was unusual for having a double balcony. The theater is presently closed and unused, except for its front which has small commercial establishments and restaurants.

West entrance of Escolta, circa 1920
West entrance of Escolta, circa 1920 (Leo Cloma Collection)

Natividad Building

Natividad Building on Escolta corner Tomas Pinpin Street was built in 1934 following the plans of Philippine-born Spanish architect Fernando de la Cantera Blondeau. Cantera Blondeau, who also designed the old Insular Life Building at the foot of Jones Bridge between Plaza Moraga and Plaza Cervantes, designed the Natividad building in the Beaux Arts style. Along with the Calvo Building, Natividad is one of two Beaux Arts structures along the Escolta. Natividad was formerly the Philippine Education Company Building, a publishing house, bookstore, and retailer of school supplies and novelty items. Its lower floor was rented by Hamilton Brown Shoe Store and H. Alonso Boutique. After World War II, the building was purchased by Jose Leoncio de Leon from Pampanga, and renamed Natividad after his second wife, Natividad Joven Gutierrez. Natividad Building, like the neighboring Calvo, rises to four stories. Its first floor is rented out to shops, while the upper floors are for offices. The second and fourth floors are articulated in a similar way by pairs of arched windows separated from the other pairs by a blank wall, between Tuscan pilasters. The third story has quadrilateral windows. Entrance to the upper floors is through the chamfered corner of the building. The building has recently been restored.

El Hogar Filipino

El Hogar Filipino also known as Edificio El Hogar on 117 Juan Luna corner Muelle de la Industria was built between 1911 and 1914. Its architects were Ramon Irureta-Goyena Rodriguez and Francisco Perez-Muñoz. It is in the Beaux Arts style, combining neoclassical and neo-Renaissance elements. One of the oldest American era buildings, El Hogar is flanked by First National City Bank on the right and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank behind it. It was given as a wedding gift by the Zobel family to Margarita Zobel de Ayala, who had married a Peruvian, Antonio Melian Pavia. Margarita was the sister of the Ayala patriarch, Don Enrique. Melian established the Filipinas Compañia de Seguros with brothers-in-law, Enrique and Fernando, which had its office in this building until it moved out when it acquired its own building on Plaza Moraga. El Hogar also housed the offices of Melian’s business empire, which included Tondo de Beneficiencia, Casa de España, Casa de Pensiones, and El Hogar. Other tenants were Ayala y Compañía, and Smith, Bell and Company. El Hogar occupies an irregular lot, hence the irregular quadrilateral plan of the building. Four wings create the building perimeter, while a connecting building parallel to Muelle de la Industria cuts across the wings, creating light wells. The main decorative embellishments of the building are Roman or semicircular arches resting on Tuscan pilasters. Separating the arches are pilasters with composite capitals. The lower arches extend to two stories, while the upper arches correspond to the third story. The windows on the fourth story are quadrilateral and so are the windows of the tower at the corner facing Muelle de la Industria. Pre-World War II photographs show that cloth awnings were attached to the arches on the second floor to shield the interior from the afternoon sun, where the principal wing of El Hogar faces. Other classical motifs decorate the facade like the decorated keystone and the dentils decorating the frieze that separate the floors. While awaiting restoration, El Hogar transferred ownership. Heritage conservation groups are concerned that El Hogar would be demolished to make way for a new building.

La Estrella del Norte

La Estrella del Norte on Plaza Moraga was designed by William James Odom in Streamline Moderne style of art deco. It was established by brothers Charles and Rafael Levy as Levy Hermanos in 1873. The brothers, who hailed from France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, arrived in Manila through San Francisco, bringing with them five crates of goods, which they failed to sell in San Francisco. Successful in their enterprise, they secured dealership of Packard vehicles, sold through Estrella Auto Palace. Leopold Kahn, also from Alsace, joined their business. Levy Hermanos owned Oceanic Jewelry. The building is presently occupied by Savory Kitchenette, which opened in 1950 and has become famous for its fried chicken. While Savory has retained the art deco line of the main entrance at the corner of Escolta, the rest of the building has undergone renovation since the 1950s. The main entrance was decorated with glass blocks, a favorite art deco material, over which were horizontal sun baffles. Between the baffles was the store’s name, Estrella del Norte. The baffles and the name have been removed and some blocks have been replaced by operable windows. The semicircular cement awning over the main entrance, in the post-World War II era, extended to the sides of the building. This was a postwar addition since prewar photographs do not show these extended awnings. The awnings have been removed and the configuration of the sides is closer to the prewar look. But the expansive glass picture windows on the sides, from the prewar days, have been replaced by arched cement windows protected by grilles. A floor was added to the building making it a three-story rather than a two-story structure. The name Savory in bold capital letters is emblazoned along the Escolta side of the building between the second and third stories. The restaurant was named The Original Savory.

Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank

Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, presently Hamilton Building, on 115 Juan Luna was built in 1921 following the designs of architect G. H. Hayward. Another neoclassical building, it was characterized by its chamfered facade crowned by twin octagonal turrets. It was five stories tall. Ionic pilasters three stories tall rested on the rusticated ground floor, which served as the plinth of the pilasters. The fifth floor was designed as an attic over the lower floors in the classical manner.

Insular Life

Insular Life on Plaza Moraga and Plaza Cervantes was built in 1930 by architects William James Odom and Fernando de la Cantera in the neoclassical style. It replaced an earlier building designed by Fernando de la Cantera Blondeau. The 1930 building was the third home of the company, which was established in 1907. The company remained in the building until 1970s, when the corporate office transferred to Paseo de Roxas in Makati, and later to a new corporate hub in Alabang. The 1930 seven-story building was noted for a globed lantern above its chamfered corner surmounted by the imperial eagle and imposing twin pillars surmounted by Corinthian capitals that rose from the second to the fourth floor. The first floor, embellished with arched openings served as the podium on which rested the classical columns. The Escolta building received an award as an outstanding commercial building.

The Filipinas Insurance Company Building, left, and Mariano Uy-Chaco Building with the American flag, circa 1920
The Filipinas Insurance Company Building, left, and Mariano Uy-Chaco Building with the American flag, circa 1920 (CCP Collections)

Pacific Commercial Building

Pacific Commercial Building also known as First City National Bank, presently Juan Luna E-Services Building on 120 Juan Luna and Muelle de la Industria, was built in 1923. It was designed by the Murphy, McHill and Hamilin Architectural Firm of New York in the neoclassical style. The building, a joint project of the International Banking Corp and the Pacific Commercial Co., followed the standard design used by the bank in its overseas branches. It was characterized by six three-story colossal columns in antis. That is, the columns are flanked on either side by a wall, resting on an arcaded ground floor, whose walls are given a rough or rusticated finish. It survived bombardment in 1945 and in the post-World War II years was used as the office of Ayala Life-FGU, until the firm moved to Makati.

Mariano Uy-Chaco, presently Philtrust

Mariano Uy-Chaco, presently Philtrust, on Quintin Paredes corner Dasmariñas and facing Plaza Cervantes, was built in 1914 and designed by Samuel E. Rowell. The building catches the attention easily because the rounded corner of the building is immediately seen upon crossing Jones Bridge. It also stands out as different from the surrounding neoclassical buildings because it is in art nouveau. The recipient of an outstanding building award, the seven-story edifice is characterized by sinuousness. The semicircular corner, which projects above the street from the third to the sixth stories, is echoed in the curved balconies hanging above the street, also from the third to the sixth floor. The first two floors are defined by a rusticated arcade and the sixth floor had quadrilateral windows with no balconies. The corner of the building had an extra floor above the sixth, a tower, crowned previously by an eagle on top of a globe, but which has been replaced by a spire. Cloth awnings shaded the balconies before World War II, but the awnings have not been restored.

Escolta Ice Cream Parlor, circa 1920
Escolta Ice Cream Parlor, circa 1920 (Lou Gopal,

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) opened its Manila branch on a lot owned by the Dominicans on Plaza Cervantes. Juan N. Arellano, who won an architectural competition in 1924 sponsored by the bank, designed the BPI building in the neoclassical style. Arellano’s monumental interpretation of neoclassical architecture won for him an award when he submitted his designs for the BPI building in a competition held in New York. This multistory building rested on a ground floor consisting of a rusticated arcade, over which three-story tall columns rose, terminating in an entablature and an attic, and crowned by a parapet decorated with classical motifs. The corners of the building broke the box-like effect with recessed corners. Recessions are repeated at the attic, which again broke the lines and adding variety and movement to the facade.

Over time and for various reasons, buildings which could have been classified as heritage structures, have been demolished in the Escolta heritage area.

Commercial buildings on Escolta Street, circa 1920
Commercial buildings on Escolta Street, circa 1920 (Leo Cloma Collection)

Crystal Arcade

The Crystal Arcade, built in 1932 following the plans of architect Andres Luna de San Pedro, was located on the site of a two-story commercial type bahay na bato, which housed the Escolta Ice Cream Parlor and Alfredo Roensch & Co. Its address was 17 Escolta Street. The Crystal Arcade was an enterprise of the Pardo de Tavera and Luna firm, but from the start the enterprise brought the firm into financial difficulty. The high water table made the building’s foundation costly, so the firm had to take a loan from El Hogar. The firm was unable to pay the loan, so in 1931, a year before its opening, the Supreme Court awarded the building to El Hogar, declaring it as its legitimate owner. The arcade was nicknamed the Pardo de Tavera mausoleum. But when the Crystal Arcade was inaugurated on 1 June 1932, it quickly became a prestigious address known for its underground parking and central air conditioning. It was the first building to have such amenities in the Philippines. It housed the Manila Stock Exchange, a mall, and store space for rent to retailers. The building was badly damaged during World War II. Some reconstruction was done after the war, but in 1966 the building was torn down, replaced by the main office of the Philippine National Bank.

The Crystal Arcade derived its name from the generous use of glass supported by steel frames. It alluded to the Crystal Palace in England, which had been built of a similar material. It was a grand art deco building with a central entrance, designed in the ziggurat style and embellished with geometrically designed bas-reliefs of plants and a decorative grille work which bore the name of the arcade. Flanking the central section were the two wings with rounded corners in the style of Streamline moderne. These flanking wings were a story taller than the central section. It was the central section that had the most eye-catching features. Entering the building through a cantilevered canopy, the entrance led to a corridor, lined with rental spaces. This corridor was lavishly embellished in marble of different colors. The corridor led to the grand concourse, whose feature was the double staircase, which came together halfway before dividing and running to the mezzanine on both sides of the staircase. Although called mezzanine, the distance between the ground and the mezzanine was equivalent to that of a full story. The staircase was supported as it branched outwards by an octagonal column of reinforced concrete sheathed in dark marble. This column rose to three stories, whose ceiling was a huge skylight that filtered the sun through colored and opalescent glass, used in many art deco buildings as decorative accent. The mezzanine allowed the construction of balconies that opened to the concourse, and allowed people in the arcade to see and be seen.

House of the Caryatids

House of the Caryatids on Escolta Street was built in the late 19th century, following the bahay na bato idiom. This wooden three-story structure was so named because it was decorated with classical caryatids at the third story, flanked by two bays with atlases. The first story had shops with retractable awnings covering the sidewalk for the convenience of customers and passers-by. The third floor, housed Fotografia Ingles. Its immediate neighbor, west or to the right of it, was Botica de la Marina.

Lyric Theater

Lyric Theater on the left with Santa Cruz Church at the far end
Lyric Theater on the left with Santa Cruz Church at the far end (Leo Cloma Collection)

Lyric Theater on Escolta Street was built on the former site of Gutierrez Building in the 1920s. It was remodeled in 1927, and then completely redesigned in 1935 by architect Pablo Antonio. Lyric’s architect was known for theater designs, and among his works were Ideal and Galaxy on Rizal Avenue, Life on Quezon Avenue, and Scala on C. M. Recto. Antonio opted for art deco but with Moorish touches, a popular development in the United States, which made its way to the Philippines. Existing examples of art deco’s Moorish strain are the Metropolitan Theater on Liwasang Bonifacio and Bellevue in Paco.

Lyric theater was originally owned by Frank Goulette from 1916 to 1933. After his death, the Rufino family’s Eastern Theatrical Inc took over the business. Under the Rufinos, the Lyric’s facade was thoroughly remodeled around 1937. The new facade was in the Streamline Moderne variety of art deco, which drew inspiration from the sleek lines of luxury liners and airlines. Lyric was the location of several firsts in Philippine cinema, like the premieres of Disney’s first animated full-length, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and the first Filipino film with sound, Jose Nepomuceno’s Punyal na Guinto (Golden Dagger). The building was destroyed in 1945, during World War II.

The Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple on Escolta (front) and Muelle Banco Nacional (back) was built in 1913 following the plan of William James Odom, with engineer Fred Patstone and George Fenhagen as consulting architects. As a temple, the neoclassical design was appropriate. Built as a five-story structure, the Masonic Temple was one of the first multistory concrete buildings in the Philippines. The upper story rested on a colonnaded ground floor with an arch central portal. The fourth-floor windows had double arched articulation, typical of multistory Italian Renaissance palazzos. The fifth floor echoed the colonnaded ground floor. The building’s rear, which faced the Pasig River, repeated the articulation of the facade but with less ornamentation. At the rear, instead of colonnades on the ground floor, arched windows were used, while the double arches of the facade’s fourth floor were replaced by rectangular windows.

Other heritage buildings and institutions within the Escolta Heritage Area, of which there is inadequate information, are listed below:

Alhambra Cigar Factory

Alhambra Cigar Factory on Escolta and Nueva Streets produced cigars for a Swiss company founded in Manila in 1898. Its first site was near the Muelle de la Industria. Women hand-rolled cigars in a building similar to a bahay na bato. Botica Boie was not so much a building but a business, established in 1830, selling pharmaceuticals. Botica Boie pioneered in extracting scents from tropical flowers like ilang-ilang and exported this to perfumeries in Europe. The Botica passed through various German owners until it was incorporated by Reinhold Boie and Paul Satorious, when it came to be known as Botica Boie. For 86 years, the botica was located on 81 to 87 Escolta, on which Lyric Theater would be built. In 1916, Botica Boie moved to a two-story building at 95 Escolta. In 1925, the building was demolished and replaced by a five-story building in the Streamline Moderne style that housed offices, a laboratory, and a store. Botica Boie was known for its soda fountain and grand staircase that led to the upper floors. It closed in the 1960s.

Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor

Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor, left, on Plaza Moraga after the rain
Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor, left, on Plaza Moraga after the rain (CCP Collections)

Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor, located west of the foot of Puente de España, was the first ice cream parlor in Manila. It was founded by M. A. “Met” Clarke, who came to the country as an entrepreneur. He had invested heavily in Benguet Mines in 1910. Heacock on Escolta and David (Burke) Streets was one of Manila’s prestigious department stores, surpassing the older American Bazaar, which was later known as Beck’s. Heacock had its own building by 1930, constructed while Sam Gaches was president and general manager. Heacock’s site was later occupied by Syvel’s, a post-World War II building.

Other historical sites are: 34 Escolta at Escolta corner Nueva Street; the American Chamber of Commerce on Dasmariñas and David Streets; Bureau of Internal Revenue on Juan Luna and Renta Streets; Canadian Pacific on David Street; Escolta Drug on Escolta Street; Fernandez on David Street; Filipinas Building on Plaza Moraga; Hike Shoe Store on Escolta Street; Kuenzle and Streif on Dasmariñas Street; Leyba on Escolta and David Streets; Meralco on San Vicente and David Streets; Peoples Bank on Dasmariñas and David Streets; and Yutivo on Dasmariñas and Nueva Streets.


  • Gopal, Lou. 2015. Manila Nostalgia. Accessed 21 March.
  • 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.

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