Cuenca Expats Magazine, Issue 40.

Photos: Courtesy of Jane Hiltbrand

casa san jose - Cuenca Architecture - issue 40


Cuenca is well known for its gorgeous architecture. A large part of that beauty comes about from the painstaking care taken in the renovations of the Spanish colonial, French Neo-Classical, and Republican era homes. It takes a great deal of study and fine artistry to accomplish this kind of renovation. I was so honored to be invited by the Montero family to view their family home, which is currently in the process of being restored. It is believed the house was built in the late 1800’s, or maybe earlier than that as there is no data in the Municipality of an exact date. It initially belonged to the family Delgado Jara, and then it passed to his heirs, who sold it to the family Cordova Vintimilia. It then went to the family Monsalve, and from there to the current owner, the Montero family.  The colonial part of the house is made from adobe, and the newer part from brick.

The renovation work is being done by Felipe Urgiles.  Felipe is the same person who fairly recently completed the spectacularly beautiful renovation of Casa Del Parque in Parque Calderon. There is so much great beauty in that building, but I am sure many will especially recall the angels in the ceiling in the Turquesa Room of Mansion Matilde, which is on the second floor of Casa Del Parque.  That is just one example of Felipe’s exceptionally exquisite work.

casa san jose - the restored mural - issue 40

This house, Casa San Jose, at 5-45 Sucre, is still a work in progress, but some of the renovation is complete. Felipe has very carefully replicated the original murals on the walls, and in the grand sala there was a decision to change the basic color of the walls to enhance their appearance. Felipe also renovated a very large mirror, which hangs in the entryway staircase, to give it the adornment of the times. He has also been in charge of restoring the elegant crystal chandeliers in the home.  On a sketch overlay of a photo of the front of the home, he has superimposed angel murals, which will be painted on the exterior walls. Felipe is a truly gifted artist, and a great treasure for Cuenca.

I was so delighted to be invited by the Montero family to a special event in the home. The lovely event included jazz musicians, flowers, wine and candlelight; and the house was full of friends, admirers, and family.


The event was to celebrate a book written by Teodoro Montero—an autobiography of his life. The title of the book, “Desde el Soplo con la Churumbela al Rayo Laser” is referring to the tools used for jewelry making. The Soplo la Churumbela was originally used. The person using it had to blow on the instrument, and it produced quite a lot of smoke, which could be very irritating to the user’s throat. The Rayo Laser is now used for cutting. In addition to being very successful, Teodoro’s business was known for donating to non-profits for children. He and his family used to bring baskets of food door to door in the neighborhood at Christmas time. 

Teodoro’s daughter Sandra Montero has continued in the tradition after 60 years and has a store of her beautiful jewelry in the building.  Personalized jewelry pieces are also made there. VAZMONT JEWELRY is a fusion of the two last names Vasquez Montero. Included in this article is a photo of Sandra’s daughter, Andrea Vasquez, modeling a “peineta” or jewelry hair piece, which the Vasquez Montero family designed.

The first part of the renovation is complete. The house will be available for special events, such as engagement parties, christening parties, art exhibitions, or important business meetings.  I have been invited to check in occasionally to follow the completion of the renovation of this beautiful home. It is such a rare treat to see an actual “before and after” transformation and renovation, the style for which Cuenca is treasured and so well known.