Local tour guides recall that Xanadu, Zanadu, or Shangdu was the summer capital of Kublai Khan’s Mongol Empire, which occupied much of Asia. Archaeological findings conclude the location of the city in the current province of Inner Mongolia.
It is also the name of an emblematic 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John (1948-2022) and Gene Kelly (1912-1996), full of color, music, and dance, which remained in the memories of many people.
However, in Cuba, there is also a very particular Xanadu associated with golf, a building constructed in 1928 for the French-American business tycoon Irénée du Pont (1876-1963), president of the DuPont Company at that time.
The businessman chose as his temporary residence one of the most paradisiacal and wonderful places on the Hicacos Peninsula, located on the north coast, the San Bernardino rocks.
Designed in 1927 by the architects Felix Cavarrocas and Evelio Govantes, the name is related to a poem that described the construction of the marvelous palace that belonged to Emperor Kublai Khan.
For the construction of the property, which stands out for its location in an excellent beach area, they used precious woods in their works, including mahogany, cedar, jiqui, and sabicu, in combination with marbles from Cuba, Spain, and Italy.
They say that Du Pont ordered precious woods from the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba to build the roof, doors, and railings, and then turned and solid columns. On the other hand, in the bathrooms, they used Italian marble and the balcony recalls the stern of a ship, just as the dressing room on the beach resembles a cabin.
Throughout the halls, there are bookcases embedded in the walls, where large collections of literary works in English once existed.
Located on the aforementioned Peña, it was the first stonework building in Varadero with three stories, seven rooms, three terraces (one of them is currently a bar), seven balconies, a pier, a nine-hole golf course (enlarged later to 18 holes) and a cellar.
Furthermore, the mansion is in Cuba’s major coastal resort, some 140 kilometers east of Havana, the country’s capital. Something curious is that the Xanadu Mansion does not have an evident formal relationship with other Cuban constructions.
It is rather a true monument to eclecticism, designed with ideas that Du Pont himself seems to have brought in his way of understanding architecture from the North American point of view, but it is undoubtedly a beauty. The initial cost was 400,000 dollars, plus 200,000 in furniture.
Currently, the Xanadu Mansion consists of the Hotel and the Club House of the Varadero Golf Club. This boutique hotel is a true architectural marvel, with stunning views of the sea and the golf course from all seven balconies.
The property was carefully maintained and restored following the original construction plan.
The emblematic and imposing Xanadu Mansion or Dupont’s House, as is also known, is an icon of Varadero, the highest point of the tourist town, very close to the beautiful Las Americas beach.