In 1646, construction began on the Carmelite convent, through a petition by King Phillip IV of Spain. The Monasterio del Señor San José de la Orden de nuestra Señora del Carmen was founded in 1651 by Doña Ana Lanzós, a wealthy widow who donated her money and her magnificent residence (a large double sloped tiled roof) in the street that since then bears the name: de las Monjas. Historian María de los Ángeles Castro tells us that the delay in the arrival of a nunnery was due to economic reasons but also for lack of since the fortifications of the city were still not complete. Three nuns brought especially from Santo Domingo served as founders.
The building was expanded between 1854 and 1861 after the original building was torn down. Governor Fernando de Norzagaray personally helped raising the necessary funds and personally inspected the work daily. Certain elements stand out in the facade of the chapel, besides the entrance, the pair of Tuscan columns, the two towers and the latticed choir arch. The frieze above the door is interrupted for a legend that never was placed. The building was closed from 1903 to 1959 and then sold. During its conversion to hotel the two towers were removed and the cross that identified the site as a temple.
In 1903, it was closed until 1959, when, under the auspices of Operation Bootstrap, Robert Woolworth started the renovation to turn it into the El Convento Hotel. It reopened in 1962 to the stars of the day, including Rita Hayworth. In the 1990s it was renovated again and rechristened as Hotel El Convento, a 4 star small luxury hotel with five stories, a central courtyard, a pool on the fourth floor terrace, and great views of Old San Juan.