Santo Domingo is the capital of firsts in the Americas, an unparalleled privilege in the West. Thus, with the buildings ensemble of the most ancient religious, civil and military institutions, the manors are also primed, for it was here that the first tastes of the European way of life were experienced in the tropics, in stark contrast to the village and habitat, barely changed by the Indians. The sixteenth-century city owes much to its urban, simple but yet effective plan. The Damero trace schematic was a functional and proper framework for the new city. Within this outline, the first houses promoted by Governor Frey Nicolás de Ovando, resulted in a well-made prototype and worthy example. ￼The mining of nearby rocks, the production of lime and abundance of clay, contributed to fabricating tiles and bricks, hence producing suitable materials available for building these houses. ￼Labor however, became Pharaonic, since the Indian did not build native houses using heavy materials and despite this, they built very solid constructions. However, the experiment proved to be very difficult for the construction of stone houses.
The solution to continue building was provided in part by the ordinance of King Ferdinand, regarding the construction of the houses. The sovereign determined for these houses to be made using pisé, resulting overall in a new impetus to the early developments. Formerets, pocket corners, and other structural elements built from stones, brick and wood to seal off the houses. In the center of the city, a space was left undeveloped for what would be the Plaza Mayor, while in the vicinity, land lots were reserved for the monasteries of the different religious orders, thus forming a sphere around the inner city, a border transferred barely two centuries later. The city features some distinctive houses due to their great dimension and facilities, or their elegant facades featuring blasons or by determined architectural details. So in addition to the Alcazar of Diego Columbus, a castle for the viceroy, there were residences of great importance that persist and now alternate with the city layout. Some of these houses are the House of Cords, the House of Nicolás de Ovando, the House of Dávila, the House of Medallions, the House of Tostado, the House of Bastidas, Casa del Tapao, the House of the Jesuites, the Houses of Francisco de Garay, the Houses of Gaspar de Astudillo, and the House of Diego del Río, among others. Many residences still remain unidentified with their original owners and builders. Others, though anonymous, are examples of very important colonial manors, whose origins require thorough research, so that more about the city development can be learned from its prominent beginnings on the American scene.