1843-1918. Sir José Castaño. THE PRIEST
He was born in Elche on the 12th of May 1843. He was the third son of a large family that were tenants in an orchard that over time would become the land of his father, and afterwards, his own.
He was a practising vicar in the Parroquia del Salvador (Saviour’s Parish) and afterwards, he became chaplain of the prison and of the Order of Saint Clare Convent. He dedicated most of his life to the orchard, very modestly refusing to accept help and prebends. Around 1900, he constructed a chapel on his land where he conducted mass every day.
José Castaño knew how to value and spread the word about the gem that his orchard contained: the Imperial Palm Tree, and he started to set up a “baptism” of the palm trees and the custom that the visitors would leave comments in a journal.
He passed away when he was 75 years old on the 14th of October 1918. His burial received mass crowds of people with the town of Elche paying him a tribute.
1874-1936. Sir Juan Orts Miralles.
He was born in Elche on the 30th of March 1874 and he died on the 18th of September 1936. He was the sixth and last son of this well-off family.
Owner of an important espadrille shoe company, he won important prizes in the Paris and Milan exhibitions with his models wearing canvas footwear. He was, undoubtedly, an intelligent and advanced man for his time. Friend of Chaplain Castaño, he knew the orchard very well and, when the property went up for public auction after the death of the Chaplain, Juan managed to acquire it.
He immediately started the renovations making the orchard into a summer house. One of the most respected decisions of Sir Juan Orts was his consistent refusal to urbanise the land. During his time there, distinguished characters visited the orchard, many of which he dedicated a palm tree to.
1898-1958. Juan Orts Román.
Son of the former, he was born on the 22nd of September 1898 and he died in Orihuela on the 18th of June 1958. The firstborn of six brothers and qualified in law, he had many different roles in his city, which he achieved thanks to his sound cultural and humanistic training, becoming a journalistic collaborator with the press both in his province and nationally. When he died he was an official city journalist and boss of the Elx Mystery Play.
When his father had died, he became owner of the orchard and carried out the most important reformation which had been done up until this point, making it into a playground. He built the current house and he made it his permanent home.
A great defender of Elx Mystery Play, he welcomed every one that could help him to spread the word both nationally and internationally. In recognition of his cultural efforts, he was named Member of Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts San Fernando) and he was awarded with an Order of Civil Merit (which recognises the civic virtue of officers or Spanish or foreign citizens for the benefit of Spain). His own work is also renown, which from the touristic point of view brought the orchard to a national and international level.
If in the times of his father, the orchard was the meeting place of powerful politicians, now it was the centre of the best of the learned society at this time.
His remains rest, as he personally requested, in the orchard’s chapel.