We have been lucky to have been to this great city before, so this time we didn’ t spend as much time (or money) as we did our first time here. It is Santa Semana here, and many people have the entire week off, so it is fairly busy. We walked the major pedestrian avenues, went out to the massive Julio 9 Boulevard, walked through the artist area of San Telmo, saw performers dancing the tango in the street and had our final steak dinner in Argentina.
We also went to an interesting underground museum that has extremely well restored old building and underground chambers from the early city drainage system in San Telmo, called El Zanjón de Granados. For city planners, it was really interesting.
The building on top was a two story brick mansion built around 1860 for a wealthy family who was involved in trading hides for leather. It was built near the Río de la Plata and had an observation tower so they could see when ships were arriving for their trading business. A few years later there was a yellow fever outbreak, and they moved out to the Recoleta neighborhood. After the yellow fever epidemic was over, the building was used for tenement housing, and then fell into disrepair. San Telmo has since become a trendy artist community and a developer recently bought the neglected property to restore for a new restaurant.
The building was filled with rubbish, and they had to climb in through the roof of the courtyards to clean it out, since the rubbish was higher than the level of the doors. Like many projects that involve restoring old buildings, this site resulted in much more work than was expected. As they cleaned out the rubbish, they found many artifacts and evidence of a subterranean drainage system. Then they had to call in an archaeologist to organize and restore all the artifacts and structures they found, including subterranean brick tunnels that contained a channeled tributary of the Rio de la Plata.
It turns out the building was built on top of these vaulted tunnels from when a stream was originally used as a sewer, and put in this underground system. We had a great tour of the well restored building and the chambers below, which they are still doing restoration and exploration of. The original developer sold this can of worms to a group of private investors, who have spared little expense to restore this place. The metal work was all done to replicate the old balcony railing they found in the excavations. They used caste iron pipes for roof drainage, and the new fire water supply was done in new brass pipes, it looked very expensive but was classy and added to the historic character. This was in addition to the archaeological work that found many colonial artifacts and the reinforcements that had to be used to support the structure. But these developers keep sinking more money into the place. They have archaeologists exploring the underground drainage system, and have bought rights to explore and renovate the subterranean drainage system as it extends into the adjacent property. It is not clear how they pay for this, or who these private investors are, but it was nice to see such an extensive restoration get full funding, even as they uncover more in the process including unforeseen costs. The entrance fee was $10 and they now use this well restored brick building for high end parties. They are also working on a similar project across the street.
We finished up with more of the good and cheap ice cream that is so widely available here and more wandering around the city. Then we headed to the hostel to pack up and make plans for the next part of our trip.
—–VEGETARIANS BEWARE, GRATUITOUS MEAT IMAGES BELOW!!!!!