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Cabildo


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Cabildo: A Piece of History

The Buenos Aires Cabildo has had a long history of construction and demolition, but it continues to stand tall today. What is this important building? It is a public building, originally built for and used by the governing administrative council (ayuntamiento or cabildo in Spanish) during colonial times.

The proposal to build the structure came in March of 1608, by the then-current mayor, Manuel de Frías. At that time, the city government had no such building, and it was a necessary part of running a successful city. They financed the construction with taxes from the bustling Buenos Aires port, and two years later is was completed. It wasn’t long, however, before they realized it wasn’t quite large enough to serve their purposes, and plans were made for expansion. Since its original construction, it wasn’t well maintained, and only 72 years after its completion date, it was nearly in ruins from the lack of maintenance. Officials and architects took advantage of this time, as the decrepit building was also still too small, and planning begun for a new, 2-story building, 11 arches wide.

Construction of the new building, however, would prove to be slow. It began in 1725, was suspended in 1728, restarted in 1731, and shortly thereafter suspended again due to lack of funding. Finally, in 1764, the tower of the new building was complete, but the rest of the building was still coming along slowly. In fact, at the time of the May Revolution in 1810, the building was still not 100% finished.

cabildo

At this point the building had seen many architects and builders, but in 1880, architect Pedro Benoit stepped in and placed an impressive 10-meter dome on top of the tower. He also modernized the building a bit, covering the dome with glazed tiles, instead of the traditional colonial red tiles that had otherwise been used. The building had finally reached the grand state it deserved, nearly 300 years after its original design, but everything changed in 1889 when three arches were destroyed to make room for Avenida de Mayo. In 1931, three arches from the other end were demolished to create space for the Julio A. Roca avenue, which once again restored the central location of the tower.

Today, the building is no longer used as a government building, but rather as a museum. In 1940, architect Mario Buschiazzo used original documents to reconstruct some of the original features of the Cabildo, such as the tower, the red tiles, the wooden windows and doors, and the decorative iron bars on the windows. Not far from there you can check the palacio Barolo also described in this Buenos Aires travel guide.

As a tribute to the building’s original history, it is now home to the National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution (in Spanish: Museo Nacional del Cabildo y la Revolución de Mayo). There, you can find information about the revolution and the government, as well as clothes, artwork, artifacts and jewelry from 18th century Buenos Aires. In the patio of the building sits the original 1835 ornamental water well, as well. It is a great place to visit to take in a bit of the city’s tumultuous history, in one of the most historically relevant buildings in the city.

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