THE PALACE FUENTES
Juan Fuentes was born in Caldas de Reyes, Galicia, in 1852. He started in Rosario around 1872 as a clerk and coachman and came to form a strong agricultural-livestock emporium.
As a testimony of recognition to the city to which he owed his fortune, he had the Palacio Fuentes built, a landmark of the city’s architecture.
The Palace was built between 1922 and 1927, being the first building with a reinforced concrete structure in Rosario. Fuentes imagined a hierarchy of values placing the family at the top -the houses-, work in the center -the offices-, businesses on the ground floor -the bank- and leisure in the basement -the Cifré-.
The confectionery located in the basement had 2 rooms for parties, families and banquets; the dining room, with subdivisions in small dining rooms and the white living room. Its furniture, decoration and service made the Cifré the site chosen by Rosario’s high society for the celebration of the most important entertainments. Its decoration shows the intervention of Alfredo Guido, who was seconded in the wall paintings by Lucio Fontana.
Son of Frenchmen, of father also an architect, Juan Bautista Durand was born in 1888 and died in Córdoba in 1934. The years of professional performance were few, but fruitful, both in Buenos Aires, associated with the architect Coni Molina, and in Rosario, where he worked alone or with Gerbino, Schwarz, Ocampo or Maisonnave. In Rosario, he carried out the projects for the building of the Agrarian Federation (Sarmiento and Mendoza), the tribune of partners of the Hippodrome Independencia (together with Ing. Van Wyck), the Palacio Minetti (with the architects Gerbino, Schwartz and Ocampo), the headquarters of the Rosario de Pelota Club (San Luis and Alem) -of which he was a founder- and numerous individual homes.
The clock, the weather vane and the lighthouse
The clock is of the same origin as that of the Tower of the English in Buenos Aires, it has 4 quadrants and its bells reproduce those of the Big Ben carillon.
The lighthouse and the weather vane with the plow were an express request from the owner to the architect. The first would illuminate the city and should be visible from its rural properties, symbolized by the plow.
The main door
In German bronze casting, it was designed by Manuel Ocampo and inspired by the door of Paradise of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence. It represents the 4 winds, the 4 seasons, livestock, agriculture and the human races. Among the busts it contains, those of Juan Fuentes and Juan B. Durand are identified.
The Catalan Ramón Cifré was the owner of the well-known “Bar Victoria” or “Victoria Tea Room”, popularly “el Cifré”, located in San Martín and Córdoba until its transfer, in January 1927, in the basement of the Palacio Fuentes.
La Capital published: “A really nice meeting was the lunch offered last night by Don Ramón Cifré to journalism, in his new and luxurious hall at the Palacio Fuentes, for its inauguration.”
It is said that Juan Fuentes himself appeared at the Rotisserie Cifré and told the owner that an establishment of that category should, from that moment, operate in the Palacio Fuentes.
With entrance through Sarmiento 722, the Cifré had 2 rooms for parties, families and banquets; the dining room, with subdivisions in small dining rooms and the white living room.
Its furniture, decoration and service made the Cifré the site chosen by the Rosario society for the celebration of the most important entertainments.
It had service for 180 people in Limoges tableware, Baccarat glassware and silver cutlery. Its decoration shows the intervention of Alfredo Guido, who was seconded in the wall paintings by Lucio Fontana.
The Cifré closed definitively in 1959 and its equipment and decoration spread throughout the city and abroad. With the works of annexation of the subsoil to the bank’s premises, all its ornamental wealth was lost
Citibank operated in that building from 1927 to 1997. First in the corner store, on the ground floor and from 1961 annexing the basement.
David Rockefeller, president of the bank, visited the vacant facilities of the Cifre and decided to purchase it, recommending its preservation. Unfortunately, Rockefeller’s recommendation was not followed, and the ground floor and basement of the Palace suffered considerable damage and the loss of structural parts of its ceilings and walls that had to be recreated from molds designed trying to respect the originals.
In 2001, after years of neglect, Guillermo Whpei, president of the Fundación para la Democracia, decided to buy the ground floor and subsoil of the Palacio Fuentes in order to install the world’s first private Museum for Democracy there.
The enhancement and restoration took more than 10 years and is still in progress to this day.