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On the Parque España’s northeast corner is the Casa Amarilla, an elegant colonial-style house that is home to the Ministry of Foreign affairs (full name in Spanish is the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto de Costa Rica).

The glorious ceiba tree in front was planted by John F Kennedy during his 1963 visit to Costa Rica attending the Conference of Presidents of the Central American Republics. If you walk around to the property’s northeast corner, you can see a graffiti-covered slab of the Berlin Wall standing in the rear garden.

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Casa Amarilla, also known as Yellow House is where Presidenta Laura Chinchilla will receive U.S. President Barack Obama on his first visit to the country  on May 3, and the location of the Central American Integration System (SICA) summit.

Casa Amarilla was built with the intention of hosting the first permanent international tribunal in the world, the Central American Court of Justice that never came to be, because just as it was set to be inaugurated, the convention expired and the building ceded to the government of Costa Rica.

In 1907 the five Central American countries agreed to form the Central American Court of Justice, the first to have jurisdiction over human rights. The first permanent international court in the world had its home in Cartago thanks to US$100,000 donation by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Unfortunately two years later it was destroyed by the Cartago earthquake.

A piece of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of Casa Amarilla.
A piece of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of Casa Amarilla.

Carnegie donated another equal amount to erect a new building in San José and designed by American architect Henry Withfield. The Court building was named the Central American Peace Palace (Palacio de la Paz Centroamericana, in Spanish), although it was also known as Carneige Palace, Yellow Castle or Yellow House (Casa Amarilla), as it is known today.

In 1920, Central America gave the building to Costa Rica and became the offfice of the President until 1922. In 1924, the building became the temporary headquarters of the National Congress, as the Nationla Palace was destroyed by an earthquake that year.

Since it has been the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 1963 Casa Amarilla doubled its capacity with the addition of a basement and in the 1970’s expanded again to accommodate all of the departments of the the ministry.

Fifty eight years after its creation, in 1976, the building was declared architectural heritage and between 1990-1994 the government acquired the remaining properties in the block to form Freedom Square (Plaza de la Libertad Juan Mora Fernández), where the gift from Germany, a piece of the Berlin Wall, was placed.

Casa Amarilla is located in Barrio Amón, between Avenida 7 (Avenida Franklin Roosevelt) and Avenida 9 (Avenida Peralta), Calle 11 (Paseo República Argentina) and Calle 13, adjacent to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) building

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