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Condesa is a neighborhood in the central borough of Cuauhtémocmarker in Mexico Citymarker. Nowadays the zone known as Condesa consists of three colonias: Condesa, Hipódromo and Hipódromo-Condesa. It is well known for its Art Deco architecture. It was developed at the turn of the 20th century (1902) in what was once the Condesa racetrack. The actual racetrack became a pair of concentric elliptical streets called Amsterdam and Avenida México. The neighborhood got its name from the grounds of the old Hacienda of the Countess of Miravalle on which it was built. The hacienda's old house still exists as the Russianmarker embassy in Mexicomarker. The neighborhood is also notable for its restaurants, bars and sidewalk cafés.

History

Early history

The original Hacienda “Santa Catarina del Arenal” was created by Juan Hernández Mellado ca. 1610 and eventually came into possession of the Count of Miravalle in 1704 when it was sold by its second owner. It was during the first half of the seventeenth century that it became known as “La Condesa”, since it belonged to the third Countess of Miravalle, Doña María Magdalena Dávalos de Bracamonte y Orozco.

The main produce of the hacienda were livestock and pulque. It continued to change hands during the nineteenth century until it came into the hands of the Escandón Family. By this time the hacienda stretched as far as “La Piedad” road on the east, the road that linked Chapultepecmarker with Tacubaya on the west, the river that ran from Tacubaya to La Piedad on the south and the national road of the Chapultepec arches to “Salto de agua” to the north.

Urban development of Condesa

The Escandón Family sold most of the hacienda in 1869 but kept the hacienda’s house which they eventually rented to the Brazilian embassy. In 1942 the family sold the house and it became the Soviet Union embassy.In 1902 the land of the hacienda was owned by the Banco Mutualista y de Ahorros S. A. which sold it to the Colonia de la Condesa Corporation, whose shareholders included José Yves Limantour y Porfirio Díaz jr.

The city’s government authorized the development of the new neighborhood on December 1902 on what is now the Condesa, Hipódromo-Condesa, Hipódromo and Roma Sur neighborhoods. However, because of the Mexican revolution, development did not start until 1924 by the “Compañía Fraccionadora y Constructora del Hipódromo”. Urban lightning was inaugurated in 1927 and the construction of the parks, streets and houses began.

In 1910 the Mexico City Jockey Club opened the city’s second horse racetrack, the racetrack circuit and name was incorporated into the street design and is the reason why two of the neighborhoods that compose Condesa are actually called Hipódromo (Spanish for horse racetrack) and Hipódromo-Condesa. You can still find an old street sign on the circular street which follows the racetrack circuit now called Amsterdam with its original name Avenida Hipódromo.

Early residents

Condesa's first residents were upper and middle-class Mexicans and foreigners. Some notable residents include composer Agustín Lara, flamenco dancer Pilar Rioja, painter Juan Soriano, and the popular-art collector and investigator Ruth D. Lechuga.

In 1924, President Plutarco Elías Calles opened Mexico to the largest wave of Jewish immigration in the country's history. Within four years, 15,000 Jews—primarily Ashkenazis from Eastern Europe—resettled in the capital. Eventually the immigrants prospered and moved to Condesa, although the Jewish community has since moved on to other parts of the city. In addition to synagogues and community centers, they opened kosher butcher shops and European-style bakeries.

Since its first days this colonia has had very good infrastructure with its big parks and tree lined avenues. The two larger parks are known as Parque México and Parque España, although the first one is officially named "Parque José de San Martín". Parque México has several fountains, a duck pond, and an art deco open-air theater named after Charles Lindbergh.

Architecture

Facade of Edificio Basurto.


Condesa shows an interesting mixture of Art Deco houses, functionalist 20th century modern structures and avant-garde contemporary buildings.

Some of the oldest apartment buildings in Mexico City, called "Edificios Condesa", are located in this neighbourhood. Their characteristic French neo-classic architecture speaks of their early 20th century origin. A group of locally known artists formed by sculptors, painters and actors live there.

Other notable buildings are the Edificio Basurto and the Plaza Condesa. The first one, was built on a functionalist streamlined style by architect Francisco Serrano in 1939-1942, is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Having been damaged in the 1985 earthquakemarker it has been restored to its former glory and maintains it residential character. The second one is a huge functionalist all steel building that started construction in the late 40’s early 50’s occupies a whole block and has never been completely finished. It has housed (or houses) a movie theater, offices, apartments bars and restaurants. The building is at the center of Condesa’s night scene with several bars on its ground floor. It is also notable because of its all steel structure, since buildings in Mexico citymarker, until recently, were mostly built with concrete.

The boom in Mexican construction industry at the beginning of the 21st century reached Condesa, which was being packed with minimalist apartment buildings and trendy lofts of contemporary style. These were built where old single-family houses used to be.

One of the most famous places in the neighbourhood is Roxy ice-cream parlour, which remains in its classic simple 60's decoration style. Its success is given due to the variety of natural flavours used in the preparation of milk and water-based ice cream.

Today

Condesa celebrated the 100 years of its existence in 2001 with parades, public concerts, devealing of sculptures and other cultural events.

Condesa, with its many small galleries and numerous exhibit spaces, offers an important space for the expression of the arts. This neighborhood hosted a small part of the Mexico City Cow Parade from November 2005 until February 2006.

There are several residential developments currently underway in the area, in hopes that this will encourage an influx of new inhabitants. However, there is concern that increased property prices as a consequence of these developments may discourage people from moving into Condesa.

On April 2006 a new 3,000 square meter cultural center opened on what once was one of the most emblematic buildings in the Condesa neighborhood, the Bella Época cinema. The Centro Cultural Bella Época has the biggest bookshop (Librería Rosario Castellanos) in Latin America, an art exposition area (Galería Luis Cardoza y Aragón), a small cinema (Cine Lido) for art films and a coffee shop. The original Art Deco architecture was preserved.

Nearest metro and metrobus stations

Metro Metrobus
  • Sonora
  • Campeche
  • Chilpancingo
  • Nuevo León


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