In the times of King Felipe II the area around calle Almagro was arable land. There are many underground rivers in Madrid and this was a fruitbearing area. As Madrid was still quite small it was in the outskirts of the city.
The whole area belonged to one nobleman who divided it, leaving one part to the king and the other one to a friend of his. For a time it was thought that this land could be used to provide food for the court, but finally this idea was rejected and the area took a different course..
In the XIX century some brick plants were established and, specially in the upper part of the area a new social class appeared. Wealthy farmers who wanted their children to receive a better education in the capital.
At the same time, in the lower part, from calle Almagro to Paseo de la Castellana, noblemen started building little palaces. We have to remember that in those times aristocracy still thought that work was not ment for them and one of their activities was welfare. So, at the same time, they built hospitals and convents destined to take care of the poor. Some of these hospitals still exist and continue with their social work.
As time went by, another group would join noblemen, rich businessmen and the upper part of the area was inhabited by another group of farmers, poorer than their predecessors and who came looking for a better job in the growing city. So the division between bothÂ zones became more evident.
The palaces we see in the center of Madrid have their main entrance directly on the street. In those built in the area of calle Almagro we find that it is the back of the palace that gives onto the street. The palace is usually surrounded by a high gate with a big entrance for carriages. The main entrance of the palace is on the side in front of a garden or yard.
Many of these buildings were abandoned by their owners during the Civil War and also destroyed. But the area has remained as one of the most elegant ones in Madrid with big buildings in quiet streets.
Today these palaces are embassies, hotels or official buildings. Although this is not a typical tourist area, it is worth visiting to have an idea how people lived in the XIX and XX century.
It is in this area that we can visit the Sorolla Museum which is also in what used to be his house and is a good example of the kind of villas that were built here, although it cannot be considered a palace.
@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.