La Casa Grande and Las Villas de Bellavista
Built in 1946 using the best construction materials available (and Mexico┤s skillful alba˝iles, or masons), Casa Grande features arched doorways and custom-made, solid cedar doors. Wall sconces, curtain rods, and chandeliers are hand-crafted wrought iron; walls are decorated with murals of hand-painted Talavera tiles depicting Mexican scenes and landscapes. Double-thick brick walls allow for niches and other architectural details. The extra-thick walls also provide excellent insulation from heat and cold.
German architect Carlos Herrmann designed Casa Grande with this and other environmental features, some of which were unheard of in Mexico at that time. Solar panels heat water for taps and showers, while bedrooms are "passive-solar heated": constructed so they capture the winter sunshine while remaining cool in the hottest months, April and May. A built-in composting bin recycles organic refuse. Originally Casa Grande was to a degree self-sustaining, with a dairy cow, horse, a few sheep, and 500 Rhode Island Red chickens. Eggs not consumed by the family were sold to neighboring families. A large vegetable garden, irrigated by a small stream bordering the property, stocked the kitchen cupboards.
American Robert Griffith Chapman created this dream house after visiting "the City of Eternal Spring" to escape the harsh winters of upstate New York. Cuernavaca's name means 'wooded valley' in the Nahuatl language, and it has been attracting people to visit or relocate here for centuries. The mild and agreeable climate made it a popular retreat for the Aztec nobles, and later popular with the Spanish conquerors and then upscale Mexicans from the capital, about an hour away. Many foreigners have since come to Cuernavaca, in the historical highlands of central Mexico, to study Spanish and to soak up the culture---and the state's many natural hot springs.
After building La Casa Grande, the first Robert Chapman built other homes on the 1.5 acre-property. Ranging in size from 900 to 3,500 square feet, they boast the same construction techniques and architectural details as the original home.
Today Casa Grande and these eight homes, known as Las Villas de Bellavista, are among the authentic architectural relics in a city that has seen many large estates bulldozed to make way for condos and other modern dwellings. The son of Robert Griffith Chapman, Roberto Chapman, Jr. and his wife Cristina rent for short- or long-term these homes surrounded by beautifully mature, tropical gardens.
All villas are completely furnished and come with fully-equipped kitchens. Over the years the Chapmans have decorated them with museum-quality Mexican folk art, authentic dance masks, colonial artifacts, and original art work by well-known Mexican artists. A Cuernavaca native, Roberto is happy to share with guests the history of his town as well as information about places to discover and explore.
For more information about Las Villas de Bellavista, please go to www.cuernavaca-villas.com.