Sunday, May 28, 2023

The uncertain future of the colonial house of the liberator of Chile that has withstood 14 earthquakes

The colonial house of Maria del Rosario Puga y Vidaurre, beloved of the architect of the Chilean independence, Bernardo O’Higgins, who lived in the property with his wife, is one of the 10 oldest buildings in Santiago de Chile. Between its adobe walls, built in 1750, their son Demetrius was born in 1823. Located in the center of the city, four blocks from La Moneda Palace, its immaculate white expanse can be seen due to the recent work of Grupo Praedio, a company dedicated to the restoration of heritage, as well as the administration of the roof took part Once you cross the threshold of the front gate, however, the building of eight hundred square meters, which has survived fourteen earthquakes, shows decomposing walls, wooden bricks and the repair of vaults.

One of the living rooms with old chairs covered in dust and rotten walls of the mansion of St. Dominic. Cristobal Venegas

Restoring the historical monument, owned by the Instituto de Caridad Hermandad de Dolores, has a cost of 1.2 million dollars. The value of the house itself is inestimable, says the doctor Rodrigo Alonso, president of a bicentennial non-profit corporation dedicated to caring for the sick: “It has a story that no one can tell.” The annals report that political and social personalities of that time met in the mansion, such as General José de San Martin. At that time, O’Higgins and the lovers of power dedicated their work to fighting royalists and succeeded in preaching the independence of Chile in 1818. Santiago was a small city, with less than 100,000 inhabitants, where the upper class lived in adobe buildings and the poor lived in villages made of branches.

The ceiling collapsed in one of the rooms of the mansion. Cristobal Venegas (©CRISTOBAL VENEGAS)

Four sixty-year-olds work hard this Thursday morning through the corridors of the house, scenes and objects that live only in their memories. They studied elementary school in the premises when the number of public schools was 23. 50 years ago in 1973, the year Pinochet launched the case against Salvador Allende. “It was the bell!” he cries, pointing to an empty corner. “This was the kitchen. I remember the huge milk stove,” said another, throwing his head into the dark, dusty place. The floors in the rooms cracked with footsteps and the little light that entered scratched the gaps in the ceiling or in the walls. There are also spaces where the demolition prevents the beam. in the third court, in the last, there are the remains of the baths which were once used by students like those who today, as adults, visit the place.

the obvious abandonment of the house is secondary to the memory of a happy time for the group. “We heard the story of Bernard O’Higgins while we were studying in the house where he lived… We felt it was important,” said Ruth Jiménez, 62 years old. His former classmate, Eduardo Cardenas, 63, wants to organize a next-generation meeting at the venue located at 624 Santiago Domingo Street.

Students of the old elementary school No. 23 in the path of the mansion of Santo Domingo, in the center of Santiago.

Jorge Domínguez, leader of Grupo Praedio’s restoration project, and Maria Jesús Guridi, executive director of the company, guide them on their journey and warn them of dangerous areas. They mention that during the works several former students asked to see it, as did tourists and curious passers-by. For three decades the number of the school was 23, then it went to another school and later to offices. The last tenant was the school theater, which the owners are going to throw out in 2018 with the idea of ​​reclaiming the architectural heritage, severely affected by the lack of maintenance.

Jorge Domínguez, head of the estate restoration project group, and Maria Jesús Guridi, executive director of the company, in the mansion of Santo Domingo.

The house belongs to the Instituto de Caridad Hermandad de Dolores since 1917. Alonso, the president of the college, confirms in the first document where he knows the ownership of the property, Maria del Rosario Puga y Vidaurre appears, where he lived from 1818 until her. 1858. Manuel Tagle Gamboa sold it, married Carlota Correa de Saa, who left it with two daughters, Sinforosa and Celinda. Both of them gave their heritage to the institute that was co-founded in 1815 by their uncle, Carlos Correa de Saa.

What to do with him now is the million dollar question, says Alonso. “We’re thinking of everything,” he says, but the main idea is to fix the house and then partner with a company to turn it into an office space for the colleges and foundations of the court he’s in charge of. Twice they applied for the project to the Cultural Heritage Fund and did not get it. He rejects the idea of ​​a museum, because he believes that there will be no future for the public and that the costs to maintain it will be very high. “We need something that contributes to the institute, because its main purpose is to take care of patients,” he explains.

The Instituto de Caridad Hermandad de Dolores has six clinics in vulnerable municipalities where they treat patients for free. The money comes from stock and real estate. It left about 250,000 dollars to fix the roof and the width.

Grupo Praedio believe that the mansions of 10 colonies are still standing in Santiago, where O’Higgins was involved in the worst situation. “If one begins to list these 10 houses, there is little that remains original in most of them,” says Guridius, a historian by profession. This is not the case for buildings in the street of Santo Domingo, where it is estimated that 90% of the buildings are from the 18th century. The shutters on the windows, the hydraulic tiles and carved wooden monkeys, folded at the top, are from the French period. “It is history. This architecture shows us the colonial century and traces of the 19th century,” he affirms.

Detail of the wooden carvings of the monkey folded at the top, from the time of Gallicification, in the mansion of Santo Domingo. Christopher Venegas

Domínguez sets his sights on the challenge of restoring this house today, because the current materials are not compatible with the building. For example, in the eighties and nineties of the last century it became common to cover adobe walls with a metal roofing mesh. “It does very well, but it hides serious damage,” he said. Adobe must transfer to the humidity it has inside and vice versa. When the logs on both sides block the transfer and the material loses its stability, a great risk factor in a seismic zone such as the South American country.

Failures to have a house invisible to the eyes of those who studied there. A group of senior students, oblivious to the concerns of restoration and overwhelmed with emotion, sent photos to a WhatsApp group of different corners of their old primary school. “We want to put a plaque. Eduardo Cardenas affirms that he respects this place. What the former colleagues want, well, it is proper to treat it for what it is, even if we don’t like it: a historical monument.

Aerial view of the 18th century tiles of the Santo Domingo mansion. Christopher Venegas
World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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