Visitors to the Hotel Sleep Inn might be surprised to learn that, in the early 1800s, the surrounding area was primarily marshland. Costa Rican historians refer to this part of town as the “lagoon,” a swampy area just north of the Sleep Inn’s current location. In fact, if the Sleep Inn had existed during this period, guests in north-facing rooms might have had pleasant lagoon views. As the 19th century progressed, San José grew in size, and the area where the Sleep Inn now stands became one of its most vibrant centers.
Until the mid-1800s, San José’s lagoon occupied an area bordered by the current Morazán Park (Parque Morazán), the Park of Spain (Parque España) and the beautiful metal-clad school (Escuela Metálica) that overlooks the Parque Morazán. Neither the parks nor the Escuela Metálica existed at the start of the 1800s; the liquor factory was the only building on the banks of the lagoon before the late-19th-century building boom. Across the boggy marshland from the liquor factory stood the train station to the coast.
In the latter half of the 1800s, coffee became Costa Rica’s leading export product, and the entire country changed and grew. San José’s population increased, as did train travel to and from the coasts. As the population shifted toward San José’s lagoon, city planners soon realized that they would need a way to connect the lagoon areas with the busy nearby train station. Until then, train passengers struggled to traverse the boggy lowlands on their walks to and from the station, and train workers slogged through the marshes to reach the railroad yards. In 1875, work began on this traffic connector, which would essentially traverse the marshes to allow for more efficient traffic flow. Upon completion, the connector became Third Avenue (Avenida Tercera), which is the street bordering the Hotel Sleep Inn to the north. At the time it was built, the street was called Paseo de las Damas, a reference to the beautiful trees growing along its edges.
At about the time that the city finished construction on the new Paseo de las Damas, city officials decided to drain the lagoon completely. On this former swampland, the city established the Parque Morazán. This new park, the National Liquor factory and the train station soon demarcated one of the busiest and most important regions in late-19th-century San José. Train passengers bustled to and from the station along the new street, which was soon dotted with businesses and restaurants. Wealthy Costa Rican families moved into the area, and elegant new neighborhoods grew up around Amón, Aranjuez and Otoya, on the outskirts of this fashionable new part of town
Although the city has shifted and changed several times since the heady late 1800s, visitors to the Sleep Inn’s neighborhood can still see the fine old buildings and beautiful parks of Costa Rica’s past. The Hotel Sleep Inn is proud to stand in this lovely historic neighborhood.
[from a radio broadcast based on research by Raúl Francisco Arias Sánchez, a Costa Rican historian]
Read more about the history of coffee production in Costa Rica.
Read more about the Hotel Sleep Inn, the Escuela Metálica and their historic setting.
Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.