Ponce is Puerto Rico's second most important city. The city experienced economic growth in the second half of the 19th century thanks to the introduction of sugar plantations worked by slaves and managed by foreign families. One result of this economic progress was the celebration of the Feria Exposición de Ponce in 1882, which presented the country's industrial and agricultural progress and has left behind today the old Expo pavilion, which today houses the Museo del Antiguo Parque de Bombas, or old fire brigade museum.
The city was thus acknowledged as being the economic and cultural capital in the south of the country, almost reaching the heights of San Juan, until America invaded the country in 1898. The implantation of a centralist political system coupled with the loss of its Cuban and Spanish markets meant that Ponce progressively lost its socioeconomic importance.
The city's new extension area was designed around 1867 by the Catalan engineer Fèlix Vidal D'Ors, who graduated in Madrid in 1839 and provided the city with a unique architectural character. This can be seen in the system of street corners he designed to provide order to intersections, thus differentiating Ponce from other Puerto Rican towns and cities. During these years of economic growth, houses were built that followed what was basically an academic construction layout plan, although traces of new forms can be noted in some exteriors. Examples of Art Nouveau can be found particularly in some interiors, such as the Casa Salazar, by Blás Silva (1911), in which beautiful examples of ceramic stoneware floors and stained glass windows can be found.
Some of Ponce's Spanish settlers wanted to bring to this new land architectural styles that were more in keeping with their homelands. But an interesting example to illustrate influential streams of architecture in Ponce is Alfredo Wiechers, one of the city's most renowned architects. He was born in Ponce, studied at Paris' École de Beaux Arts and lived in Barcelona for a few years, where he worked at Enric Sagnier's studio. When he returned to Ponce in 1911, he began to put into practice the knowledge and influences he had accumulated in Europe, as can be seen in his Casa Sellarés or own residence and studio, known as the Casa Wiechers-Villaronga (1912).
With the passing of time, Art Nouveau influences gave way to Art Deco forms, as can be seen in the old Cine Fox Delicias building (1931), by Francisco Porrata Doria.