Palacio Fuentes

The Palacio Fuentes is considered one of the architectural landmarks in Rosario, Argentina. The eclectic edifice in a predominant Beaux-Arts style is located at 722 Sarmiento Street in the heart of Rosario's business district, in the intersection with Santa Fe St. The palace was named after Juan Fuentes Echeverrí­a, the businessman who commissioned the construction of the building that today still bears his name.

The Developer
Juan Fuentes Echeverrí­a was a Spanish immigrant who settled in Rosario, Argentina in 1868. Fuentes first worked as a farmer in the neighboring province of Entre Rí­os, andlater as a dishwasher in Rosario. Eventually he was able to buy a horse-driven cart that he used primary for recycling scrap metal which he purchase and sold for a good profit. Fuentes would eventually become landowner, a stockbreeder and a major player in the agricultural boom of Argentina as a consequence for the high demand for grain in Europe during and after WWI. Immigration in Argentina soon resulted in a shortage of living space. Real state suddenly became a good business opportunity in the early twenties. Juan Fuentes took advantage of the opportunity purchasing a lot in the heart of the city's commercial district where he planned to erect the tallest structure in Rosario, a building that would be a reflection of his success.

The project
Juan Fuentes summoned Juan Bautista Durand, one of the leading architects of his time, one of great experience, not just in Rosario but in the capital city of Buenos Aires, in Córdoba and elsewhere in Argentina. Durand had been responsible for the building of the Federación Agraria Argentina, Club Rosarino de Pelota. Durand had also been amongst the founders of the Sociedad de Architectos de Rosario and faculty member with the Universidad del Litoral where he pioneered the School of Architecture. Durand was the ideal candidate for the monumental task of building the Palacio Fuentes. With the approval by Fuentes Echeverrí­a, the master plans and blue prints were then turned to master mason and constructor Enrique Ferrarese of Ferrarese Hnos. y Cí­a.. The construction took place between 1923 and 1927. The upper floors were to be designated for multiple purposes. The units differ in size and floor plans. Most were conceived as maze of corridors and openings leading to internal patios. There were offices on the second floor (first in Argentine terms) a dinning saloon/tea room and delicatessen cellar with a dance floor in the basement known as the Café Cifré. Ramón Cifré's cafe was decor with various details of different nature, some were probably inspired by the great coffee houses of Madrid. Spanish tiled corridors dark boisserie with exquisite details, stained glass windows and large mirrors. There was (and still remains hidden public eye today) a majolica mural with rural and urban scenes evoking the birthplace of Fuentes in Spain; Tapestries by Alfredo Guido, and paintings by Lucio Fontana. The bar counter was made of silver from the mines of Cerro Rico in Bolivia. The bar rested on seven sculptures by Battilana. The main entrance, in the intersection of the streets named Santa Fe and Sarmiento was showcased a magnificent set of brass gates framed by a Corinthian columns portico. The lower façade of the palace is made of dark green granite from Germany. The upper floors feature Corinthian columns and a loggia with statues. The top floor is crowned by a clock tower guarded by the human sized statues of Venus, Aphrodite and Apollo carved on Italian marble. Above the clock stands proud the 195 f. long lighting rod made from Fuentes's own plow share. Copper lanterns of considerable proportions (aprox. 12 feet) hang from chains hooked to stands bolted to the exterior walls between the white arches of the balconies adding a Moorish touch to the already eclectic design.

The gates
The front gates, centered on the southwest corner of the intersection, was made of electrolytic bronze in Greece and consist of a twin set of five paneled vertical sides 3 meters wide by 5 meters high. The door was designed by Manuel Ocampo inspired in the 14th Century Porta del Paradiso at the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, Italy. Following the Gothic tradition, the door showcases the chiseled bronze busts of the Fuentes, Durand, and Ferrarese. Other reliefs in the gates represent the Seasons, the Four Cardinals, the Muses and the Native Argentine. The central panels showcase the monogram of the proprietor Juan Fuentes. All the inscriptions are in Greek. The other doors in the ground floor have reliefs of the faces of former presidents of Argentina Nicolás Avellaneda and Julio Argentino Roca. The building is on the list of works and sites of patrimonial value of the municipality of Rosario, as item 011110500.
 

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