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Featured: Property Descended in the Family of Rafael C. & Ethel Regan Goyeneche, Sr.

Rafael C. Goyeneche, a prominent and prolific architect working mainly in Mexico City and Havana, was born in Mexico in 1877. He studied at the San Carlos Academy, the College of Mining and the National School of Fine Arts, where he received the titles of engineer and architect. 

Goyeneche began his career with Purdy & Henderson Co., a major architecture and engineering firm, where his first projects included department stores and two prominent homes on Avenida Juarez. He designed most of the school buildings and many of the finest homes in Mexico City.

As a brilliant young architect, Goyeneche’s skills were highly sought after by Mexico City’s upper crust. Hugo Scherer, a German mining millionaire that came to Mexico in 1869, employed him in 1905 to build a spectacular “Alpine-inspired” country house in Mixcoac, and he was also tapped in 1907 by the Cusi Armella family to design and build a major residence—a project that took nine years to complete. One of Goyeneche’s most important projects was the Suberbie-Mendiola House designed for prominent couple Enriqueta and Don Emilio Suberbie. 

Rafael married Ethel Regan Goyeneche, a New Orleans native. She was the granddaughter of the late Otto M. Tennison, a Confederate soldier, and daughter of Walter Regan, the civil engineer who built the Central American railroad system. The couple travelled frequently between Mexico City, Havana and New Orleans. 

Amidst the chaos and violence of the Mexican Revolution, Goyeneche and his wife, along with tens of thousands of others, emigrated to the United States in 1913. By 1916, he was working in Purdy & Henderson Co.’s New York office. Purdy & Henderson was one of the first firms to establish a presence in Havana and offered expertise for the city’s local designers and architects, as well as assistance with importing the necessary building materials. 

Goyeneche relocated to Havana and designed and supervised the development of important structures such as the Havana Yacht Club and the Gran Casino Nacional at Marianao. He selected sculptor Aldo Gamba to create an impressive fountain depicting dancing figures in front of the casino. The building was later updated by another firm in 1928 (much of Goyeneche’s original design was preserved), but the structure was demolished in 1948 to make way for an expansion of the Country Club de La Habana. The young architect also traveled frequently between New Orleans, his wife’s birthplace, and Havana to source materials. 

Following the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Mexico City was changing at a rapid pace. The soaring population and significant societal changes in the first half of the twentieth century necessitated a flurry of renovations and demolitions of aging palaces and other colonial structures to allow for verticalization and contemporary development. Additionally, the city’s streets, transportation and other urban elements were also updated. 

In 1925, Goyeneche designed and oversaw an extensive decade-long renovation in Mexico City of a building located on the historic Zócalo, the city’s main square, to house the Hotel Majestic. The seven-story building’s façade was updated to the neocolonial/neoclassical style, which was in sync with a larger beautification effort focused on the city’s historic core. Goyeneche’s use of traditional materials and his meticulous attention to detail resulted in a final structure that perfectly complemented the existing buildings along the Zócalo, including the Palacio Nacional and the Ayuntamiento. 

In 1926, he led a neo-baroque transformation of Havana’s San Felipe de Neri church to the headquarters of the Banco de Comercio. Other projects in Cuba included private residences in La Playa and El Vedado, many of which remain intact today.

He remarkably oversaw both the two overlapping Havana and Mexico City projects concurrently. After the 1934 riots in Havana, Goyeneche returned to Mexico to see through the Hotel Majestic project to completion. The hotel opened its doors in 1937. 

New Orleans Auction Galleries is honored to offer fine art, antiques and silver descended in the family of Rafael C. and Ethel Regan Goyeneche, Sr., of Mexico City, Mexico; Havana, Cuba; and New Orleans. 

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