January 18, 2022 10:13 pm

Villa Santa Paula: the secrets of the mansion that Dardo Rocha built in Mar del Plata to dazzle his wife

The corner of Garay and Lamadrid It has nothing in particular for those who walk the streets of Mar del Plata, absorbed in the screen of their cell phone. In fact, Few tourists tend to be busy in La Feliz and know it. Furthermore, even some locals are not very clear about what the building that stands there is about: the Villa Santa Paula, a picturesque-style villa built by Dardo Rocha as a surprise gift for his wife.

In fact, the story that culminates in the delicate architectural work began during a trip to France that the couple made at the end of the 19th century. Back then, Paula Arana Merino She was fascinated by a property that she saw with her husband on a walk outside of Paris. Attentive to the tastes of his partner, who was a sergeant during the War with Paraguay took note of that situation and much later would transform it into reality.

When he traveled with his wife to Mar del Plata as governor of the province of Buenos Aires, both were enchanted with the city. That love at first sight occurred when Rocha visited La Feliz on April 15, 1883, because he was on the campaign trail with a view to running for president. Until then, the closest train station to the city was Maipú, so they then continued their journey in a carriage.

The official and his wife They were entertained by Eduardo, the son of Patricio Peralta Ramos, who led the retinue that received them. After their meeting with the descendant of the founder of the city, the couple had a great reception at the La Amistad hotel in Pedro Urrutia.

Dardo Rocha and Paula Arana Merino, during a walk; the couple had a love at first sight with Mar del Plata

While he remained on the shore, Rocha He promised the arrival of the railroad, the telegraph and a branch of the Banco Provincia for Mar del Plata, all works that were completed. Later, He would return several times to La Perla del Atlántico. During those stays at the mythical Hotel Bristol, the idea of ​​buying a piece of land on which he would later build the famous mansion would originate..

Although, strictly speaking, the history teacher Diego Failla explains to LA NACION that the land was donated by the Luro and the Peralta Ramos “When he authorized the extension of the Southern Railroad, from Maipú to Mar del Plata”. Likewise, who is a researcher at the National University of Mar del Plata (UNMDdP) adds: “In the letter that they write to him, they tell him that, ‘as a gift’ for making them extend the roads, they give him those lands so that he can enjoy the benefits of the new seaside resort. There is a copy of the letter in Villa Miter”.

Thus, Rocha would have the villa built on the corner of Garay and Lamadrid on the acquired block. Nevertheless, the founder of La Plata he did not tell anyone in his family about his plans, while giving the go-ahead for the construction of his wife’s dream house to begin.

About who was in charge of the design of the building there are confusing data. One of the most widespread accounts is that he was in command of engineer Pierre Benoit. Although it is impossible that it is true, because the French, who is adjudged to have belonged to the royalty of his country, landed in Argentina for political reasons in 1818 and died in 1852.

The plans of the Villa Santa Paula, published in The architectural and urban heritage of Mar del Plata, a book produced by the city's national university
The plans of the Villa Santa Paula, published in The architectural and urban heritage of Mar del Plata, a book produced by the city’s national university

The version indicating that it was his son Pedro (Rocha’s henchman, designer of the Cathedral of La Plata and Mar del Plata, among other works), who died in 1897; the house was completed more than a decade later. Another conjecture speaks that it was Pedro Juan, grandson of Pierre and son of Pedro, the only one among his ten descendants who dedicated himself to the same business as his predecessors.

In that sense, Bettina Favero, Doctor in History and director of the Center for Historical Studies (CEHIs) agrees. “There is no specific data, but it is presumed that it was Benoit’s grandson who finished it”, Thinks in communication with THE NATION. In fact, according to the file found in 1948 in the private works sector of the Municipality of General Pueyrredón, the construction dates from approximately 1910; another fact that corroborates that two of the Benoit mentioned in various stories no longer existed. Although Failla, meanwhile, believes that Pedro Benoit was the one who was in charge of the pre-design and then completed by his son Pedro Juan.

There is no data on the builder of the house, according to the file of the Faculty of Architecture, Urbanism and Design
There is no data on the builder of the house, according to the file of the Faculty of Architecture, Urbanism and Design

After a year of construction, the long-awaited day for the then former Buenos Aires governor arrived. His plan was to surprise Paula. Consequently, he took his family to Mar del Plata, making them believe that they would visit a villa located in Lamadrid and Garay to rent it for the summer.

In fact, they arrived with the train at the Mar del Plata Sud Station (recently completed), which would later become the bus terminal and where a shopping mall is currently being built. In other words, Rocha and company descended just one block from the house.

Old image of the property that Dardo Rocha gave to Paula Arana
Old image of the property that Dardo Rocha gave to Paula Arana

Once at the door of the brand new building, his wife was surprised by the similarity between that house and the one that he had liked so much on the outskirts of Paris. Upon entering, excited, she realized that she was in her own home because the holograms printed on the tablecloths, towels and sheets had his family’s initials.

The chalet is in the painting style, in the French manoir style. An aesthetic category that emerged in the 18th century in the United Kingdom, related to the romantic movement. The term comes from the Italian word picturesque, What does it mean “Similar to painting”, “in the manner of the painter”.

In that sense, the architect Majo de la Fuente, a member of the Heritage Preservation Area of ​​the Municipality of General Pueyrredón, in a talk with THE NATION He explains that painting was developed in Mar del Plata during three stages, which lasted between 1885 and 1945. It also states that in each of these periods the morphology of the constructions was modified.

According to the data sheet of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism of Mar del Plata, the property has an area of 600 square meters, while the land measures 1908. Inside, it has six bedrooms, five bathrooms, two living rooms, dining room, service area and attic, all distributed on the ground floor, upper floor, mezzanine and basement. In addition, it has a small balcony, an extensive garden, large circular hall, a tower, kitchen and a multipurpose room; on this same level but with internal access it has a distribution hall and circulation, four units and laundry room.

Over the years, Santa Paula deteriorated until it was in a bad state. Although it was the only Dardo Rocha home left standing, its heirs did not take proper care of it and it was abandoned. In fact, They called it the “house of the witches” because of the amount of bats that were inside and many other urban myths that were woven around it.

Until, in 1995, the Municipality of General Pueyrredón issued Ordinance No. 10075/1995 that declared the site as Cultural Heritage. “In 2003, the house was bought by an architect from La Plata who restored it, recovering its former splendor. Later it was acquired by a merchant from Mar del Plata, “he says. Bettina Favero.

A few months ago, it transpired that the property was put up for sale for US $ 600,000 provided it was kept intact. Whoever bought the land could build towers around it, but not touch the chalet. Currently, there is a cafe in an internal part of the building, but no real estate project has yet prospered.

In the image, the projection of what the historic property would look like with a real estate development of towers around it
In the image, the projection of what the historic property would look like with a real estate development of towers around it

The families of Dardo Rocha and Juana Paula Arana Merino lived together in a property located in Lavalle 835, in the current downtown of Buenos Aires. They were both first cousins ​​on his mother’s sidetherefore, they had grown up together. In fact, so close was that bond that over time those children would end up falling in love with adults.

However, formalizing was not easy: the Church did not allow marriage between blood relatives. Therefore, Rocha should have asked ecclesiastical permission. After obtaining it, he married Paula on August 23, 1873.

Dardo Rocha and Paula Arana in La Rambla Mar del Plata, one of the few photographs together in the city dating from 1899
Dardo Rocha and Paula Arana in La Rambla Mar del Plata, one of the few photographs together in the city dating from 1899

The marriage conceived five children, of which two died in infancy: Dardo Diego Juan José Carlos Rocha Arana and Dardo Melchor Ponciano Rocha Arana (the one who gave the name to the later basilica of 5 and 48, the first church built in the downtown area of ​​La Plata).

The couple was very close until their last days and they died four years apart. At present, his remains rest in a family vault located in the Recoleta Cemetery.

Dardo Rocha was born in Buenos Aires, on September 1, 1838. Although he transcended public life with that name, his birth name was Juan José Carlos Jacinto Dardo Rocha y Arana. Was received from attorney, too it was political, diplomatic, military leader, journalist and teacher. In his military role, he participated in the Argentine civil wars and with the rank of sergeant major in the Paraguayan War. Later he was discharged from the Argentine Army.

In 1853, he translated a small novel that he sent to the Montevideo newspaper The memory. In this way, he began in journalism, a field in which he would develop until founding a newspaper on July 19, 1857. His project was called The new regeneration and made it concrete with Felipe Varela already Juan Chassaing.

Dardo Rocha at the door of his Villa Santa Paula chalet
Dardo Rocha at the door of his Villa Santa Paula chalet

On the political level, it was provisional president of the National Senate during the presidency of Nicolas Avellaneda (1876-1878), before, during and after his mandate, he also served as a senator. It was also deputy for the Province of Buenos Aires in the governments of Bartolomé Miter and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

Among the positions of the last stretch of his life, he stood out as an extraordinary envoy and plenipotentiary minister in the special mission before the Bolivian government, whose objective was to resume binational diplomatic relations, deteriorated as a result of the Argentine ruling on the Peruvian border issue. -bolivian.

Rocha carried out his most outstanding management while he governed the Province of Buenos Aires, between 1881 and 1884. During his tenure, founded the city of La Plata, Necochea, Coronel Vidal and Pehuajó y Tres Arroyos. He was also the mentor and first rector of the University of La Plata from 1897 to 1905. He died on September 6, 1921.

Reference-www.lanacion.com.ar

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