Would you love to see trees, grass and fountains on Plaza Mayor again? Me too. The same can’t be said for the other lost stories I’ve dug up, however. Open-cast construction sites, cars parked in strange places, and the symptoms of war never made for an attractive city, but who are we to deny that we all possess a morbid curiosity to see the photographs of such bedlam…
WHEN PLAZA MAYOR WAS A PARK
Madrid’s most famous square has undergone some very drastic transformations over the decades: from park, to car park, to a square purely for tourists and more tourists.
I’m a fan of how it was in this photograph – all green and lush, with plenty of benches to sit on before the sun became too hot. And, imagine this… none of the apartments you’re looking at in this photo were Airbnbs back in 1860.
OUTSIDE PLAZA MAYOR, PRE-PEDESTRIANISATION
Head out from Plaza Mayor and find this pretty street, which is now pedestrianised. The two-storey building you see below is now four stories tall. That’s what 50 years does to Calle Postas…
THE CONSTRUCTION OF ATOCHA METRO, 1980
Most of Madrid’s metro was built in this method, where the ground was opened up exposing forgotten convent cemeteries and the odd fossil, in order to place the subterranean tracks beneath our feet.
What listening out for enemy planes once looked like.
A TANK IN FRONT OF THE PALACE
This very surreal sight was captured during the Spanish Civil War, around 1936. There are very few traces of the Spanish Civil War outside of black and white photographs such as this one, but trust me, I’m on the hunt for the real-life, concrete evidence.
A GLIMPSE OF AN OLD LAVAPIÉS
The statue of Agustín Lara now stands where the white van is, and the square is also no longer named after him either: it’s now called Plaza Arturo Barea, named after a journalist who covered the Spanish Civil War, and of whom George Orwell was a big fan.
Plaza Arturo Barea is currently undergoing huge renovations, which has seen the demolition of a shelter once used as a makeshift refuge for Madrid’s homeless, but that patch of lawn, stone steps, parked cars and the wings of that burnt-out church haven’t been seen in decades.
Want to read more of Madrid’s lost stories? Dive into Volume V right away.