In this volume of Madrid’s lost stories, we reveal the vengeful reasons behind the demolition of a beautiful Madrid building, a lost metro entrance, evidence of Madrid’s questionable city centre zoo, and a few more surprises. But let’s start with a boy on a frozen river, who turned out to be the father of one of our no-frills followers!
THE FROZEN MANZANARES
I shared this old photo a couple of weeks ago on Instagram and got a message from a man named Víctor saying,
That’s my father in that picture!
Victor’s father is the boy on the far right, Ángel, who was eight years old at at the time and is now 64 . He was playing with his friends Sebas and Juanjo one cold December day in 1962. Ángel grew up just by the Puente de Segovia (pictured), on Calle Linneo, where his mother lived from the 1930s until just two years ago.
Thank you, Víctor, for bringing this photo back to life for us…
THE CONTROVERSIAL DEMOLITION
It seems hard to believe that this building was demolished using dynamite given its proximity to nearby properties. The parked cars in front must have needed quite a dusting, and probably a few new windows, mirrors and headlights too.
However, the story of this building is far more controversial than the demolishers’ callous attitude towards the neighbours.
This small but perfectly formed Neo-Baroque building was the headquarters of the newspaper El Diario de Madrid. It was founded a week after the end of the Spanish Civil War but only because it favoured Franco’s regime. From the mid 1960s, however, after hiring a few new journalists, the newspaper started to veer left, eventually demanding in print that Franco step down.
What did Franco do? Accused them of financial irregularities, bankrupted them, shut down the newspaper and, as symbol of his distaste at attempted democracy, destroyed this beautiful building in a spectacular display of the power of explosives.
Location of the new apartment building that stands in its place: Calle Maldonado, 92.
THE CIBELES BUNKER
The fountain of Cibeles was buried and sealed within a makeshift brick fortress for the duration of the Spanish Civil War. Was it to protect her? Or to prevent the looting of Spain’s secret bunker of gold that lies 40 meters below…
THE GHOST PLAYGROUNDS
I love the Spanish word for empty plot, solar, which actually refers to the ground beneath the demolished building but seems to hint at the brief glimpse of sunshine on the rubble.
Not a lot has changed in 68 years – solares still appear, disappear and reappear (creating ghost buildings), but nowadays controversial urban gardens are sweeping across the city, with locals desperate for a pocket of open space. Read about our favourite three here.
GRAN VÍA’S LOST METRO ENTRANCE
Did you know that Gran Vía metro station used to look like this? You can still see it if you travel 557 km to O Porriño, where this art deco stone shelter lives out its days hidden within an overgrown garden on the north-west coast of Spain.
THE FORGOTTEN CITY CENTRE ZOO
In the heart of Retiro park between 1774 and 1972, there were polar bears, lions, zebras, camels, elephants and many more exotic animals living in tiny cages at touching distance from the public.
Could you imagine a polar bear in 40°C heat, or a lion in a cage? It was a cruel setup that wouldn’t be permitted today, but even though it was a slightly different time, the photographs are still hard to believe…
There are still traces of the zoo today. In fact, this building above has been converted into a library. Where the lions were once incarcerated, there are rows of books, and where polar bears once roamed, there’s an octagonal enclosure vaguely replicating the Arctic landscape.