The Lercaro family represent the highest social elite in the Canary Islands in the 16th century. Registered in the Golden Book of the Republic of Genoa, they settled in La Laguna because of their trading activities in the Atlantic. Their economic power was strengthened by a policy of matrimonial alliances with the main noble houses on the island.
This was the case of Francisco Lercaro de León who, after marrying Catalina Justiniani y Justiniani, had the palace built in 1593. It was erected on the plot initially occupied by the house of public scrivener Gaspar Justiniano.
The house was the family dwelling but in later periods was used for other purposes: army lodgings, university classroom, primary school, shoe shop, carpentry and forge shop. In 1993, after extensive refurbishment, it was made a museum. It currently houses the Museo de Antropología e Historia de Tenerife [Anthropology and History Museum].
Noteworthy features of the building include its masonry façade with a stonework central piece and tiled eaves. The doorway has a small protruding cornice supported by small corbels that are divided by ring decorations with the Lercaro coat of arms in the centre. From the ends of the cornice, a broken pediment stretches out topped by two elegant volutes, a typical feature of followers of architects Serlio and Vignola. The higher section prolongates the bossage that typically borders the doorway, all of which is crowned by an open, curved pediment with pinnacles containing two spiral scrolls. At the top, vase-shaped pinnacles are used for ornament. It is also worth mentioning the typical sgraffito of Genoese palaces, which was found during the refurbishing works. The doorway described above shows that Tenerife was not left out of the classical architecture wave that spread from Italy to the rest of Europe through the treatises of Vitrubio, Serlio and Sagredo.
The late Renaissance-Mannerist language of the doorway is also employed on the jambs and lintels of the hallway door.
Some frescos were painted on this door by using tempera on a very thin layer of plaster that covered the stone. The decoration consists of very simple decorative motifs like faked architecture on the doorjambs and garlands over the lintels.
After the hallway, the main staircase is on the left; it is built with the same stone used for the portico and the pilasters in the courtyard. It features a vault and a semi-circular arch, crowned by an evocative Italianising wooden double arch. Seven columns surround the main courtyard alternating stone and wood. On the parapets of the upper corridor are some noteworthy wooden panels carved with vegetal motifs. Equally attractive are the ornamental elements in the upper galleries of the main courtyard.
The Palacio de Lercaro has been a Cultural Heritage Asset under the Monument category since 29 April 2008.