Central Lafayette

Date Established: 1905
Date Ceased Operations: 1973
Annual Production Graph
Average Annual Production: 24,368 Tons
Best Production Year: 1949/40,693 Tons
Family Ownership: Fantauzzi
Corporate Ownership: Asociacion Azucarera Cooperativa Lafayette
The first Fantauzzi to arrive in Puerto Rico from Morsiglia, Corsica after 1815, the year when the  Royal Decree of Graces  was approved by  King Ferdinand VII of Spain allowing citizens of other European Countries to settle in Puerto Rico, was Angel Francisco Fantauzzi Stella (1813-1891).  By the 1840s Angel Francisco was a successful merchant established in the port area of Arroyo. 
In 1852, his nephews José (1832-1905) and Cruciano (1825-1896) Fantauzzi Stella arrived from Morsiglia and a year organized the mercantile firm Fantauzzi Hnos. to purchase the business from Angel Francisco.  Fantauzzi Hnos. was organized on 6/20/1853 and also included brothers Gerónimo (1846-1906) and Francisco (1835-1924) Fantauzzi Stella.  The establishmnet of Fantauzzi Hnos. mercantile firm was the beginning of the road to the creation of Central Lafayette 52 years later.
The Fantauzzi family was familiar with the sugar business as they owned a sugarcane refining business in Coudum, France northeast of Paris.  José and Gerónimo returned to France in 1874 and 1878 respectively, the other brothers remained on the island developing the crop financing and  sugar and molasses exporting businesses.  Throughout the years, Fantauzzi Hnos. acquired several haciendas for non-payment of crop financing contracts.  This way they acquired half of Hacienda Garonne in Maunabo in 1862 from Maria Emilia Marcucci the widow of Juan Joubert, the other half acquired in 1874 when Cruciano's wife Matilde Catalina Joubert purchased it from her mother Maria Emilia.  They also acquired in 1857 the 800 acre Hacienda Felícita in Patillas from Francisco Agostini as well as the 99 acre Hacienda Emilia from Santiago Reyes, later by his 5 children, and in 1858 the 50 acre Hacienda Palma in Arroyo from Francisco Monserrate Lopez representing his wife Concepción Altuna.  All these acquisitions later became important contributions to the foundation of  Central Columbia  and Central Lafayette.
Lafayette was the result of the consolidation of Haciendas Cuatro Calles, Ancones and Palma.  The 489 "cuerdas" Hacienda Cuatro Calles, was the center of the new venture.  It was started in the mid 1800s by Luis Buenaventura Sanchez who died leaving the property subject to a $40,000 mortgage.  It was acquired in 1871 by Arthur McCormick Fitzpatrick who in 1874 sold it to the mercantile firm William Lamb-Narsh & Co., owners in 1887 of Central Progreso in Carolina.  Fantauzzi Hnos. leased and operated Cuatro Calles from 1886 to 1892 and acquired it in October 1893 when it was auctioned by the Government due to Lamb-Narsh & Co.'s insolvency. 
Starting in the 1880s the Fantauzzis continuously updated the machinery in all of their haciendas including Cuatro Calles to keep up with the changing circumstances in part brought about by the abolition of slavery in 1873.  These updates at one point in time elevated Cuatro Calles to a Central Sugar Factory, however, the exact date of the organization of Lafayette as a central sugar mill is unknown but it is ca. 1905 when the name Central Lafayette de C & J Fantauzzi begins to appear in legal documents.  Before then, Cuatro Calles was mentioned in reference to Lafayette.  Sucrs. C & J Fantauzzi was organized after the death of Cruciano and José in 1896 and 1905 respectively to engage in the agricultural, industrial and commercial business of Central Lafayette as well as of those of the haciendas Cuatro Calles, Palma, Felicita, La Vega, Garonne and the  Columbia Sugar Mill in Maunabo.  

The February 3, 1912 edition of the Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturere reports that: "Central Lafayette, in the Guayama District, will soon be ready to grind...The proprietor, Don Antonio Fantauzzi, attends strictly to business during the crop, and afterwards usually returns to his home in Paris to enjoy a well-earned vacation, and he is to be congratulated for having one of the best centrals in Puerto Rico as a result of his application to business and perseverance.  This is one of the few Centrals which has not changed hands for many years, but has steadily been built up from a muscovado mill to an important central with a crop of about 80,000 bags." 
Sucrs. C & J Fantauzzi acquired Central Providencia in Patillas in 1929 after it was destroyed in 1928 by Huricane San Felipe mainly for its land and railroad lines.  Though not a big sugar mill production wise, with maximum annual production of about 40,000 tons, Lafayette was a pioneer in several ways.  It reportedly had the largest crushing mill of all sugar mills on the island and was one of the first, if not the first, to have telephone and telegraph service.  The first telegraph line in Puerto Rico was laid in Arroyo by Samuel B. Morse himself.  Morse's oldest daughter, Susan Walker Morse (1821-1885), would often visit her uncle Charles Pickering Walker, who owned the Hacienda Concordia .  During one of her visits, she met and married Edward Lind, a Danish merchant who worked in his brother-in-law's  Hacienda Enriqueta .  Lind purchased the Enriqueta from his sister when she became a widow and at the same time also acquired Concordia.  Morse, who often visited at the hacienda with his daughter and son-in-law, set a two-mile telegraph line connecting his son-in-law's hacienda to their warehouse in the Arroyo port area.  The line was inaugurated on March 1, 1859. 
In 1936 Lafayette was acquired by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA), the Puerto Rico branch of FDR's New Deal for a reported $3,000,000, and sold to a cooperative organized by the sugar mill creditors, colonos and employees.  During the cooperative ownership, a hospital was built which is still today in operation.  
The inscription on green building with the white columns states "Laboratorio Quimico", which indicates this was the sugar mill's laboratory.  The residential structures pictured are near where the main structure is and date back to the sugar mill days.

The book La Central Lafayette: Riqueza, Desarrollo y Politica en el Sureste de Puerto Rico by Gloria Tapia Rios includes a detailed history of the creation of Central Lafayette which name is said to refer to the address of the Fantauzzi's offices in Paris; 62 Rue Lafayette.
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