You may remember that on my previous trip I discovered a website in Spanish which describes 200 places in Mexico City's "Centro Histórico". Many of these are places you would pass by without ever knowing their fascinating history. Once again, I picked out a few of the places on this list which I thought you might find interesting, and took photos of them.
Our first stop is a relatively recent building. "La Nacional" was built by the life insurance company of the same name. Construction began in 1928 and was completed in 1932. The thirteen story structure was the first skyscraper in Mexico City and for five years held the distinction of being the city's tallest building. It stands across the street from the Palace of Fine Arts on the corner of Lázaro Cárdenas and Juárez Avenues.
It was the first tall structure in a seismically active area. It was built upon more than 100 concrete piles that go down to bedrock at a depth of 180 feet. It has survived ten earthquakes, including the 1985 quake which devastated much of Juárez Avenue, without any structural damage.
The building is considered one of the city's most important examples of art deco architecture.
Today most of the building is occupied by offices of the National Institute of Fine Arts.
In 1947 an annex, which is sometimes referred to as "La Nacional II", was built next to the original. It today houses the downtown branch of Sears. ("Sears de México" is very much alive and well, is 100% Mexican owned, and it considered an upscale store.)
Heading down Madero Street, you might not notice this carving of a feline head on one of the street corners.
In 1847, at the end of the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. army occupied the city, the former hotel was used as a barracks, bar and brothel (!) by the occupying troops.
In 1929, Paul Dubois, a French architect who has designed a number of buildings in Mexico City, was commissioned to design a new building for the department store. When it was completed it was considered one of the most elegant buildings in the city.
The department store no longer exists, but the building has been lovingly restored. The upper floors house business offices, and the ground floor is a Nike store.
During the colonial period, Mexico, then known as New Spain, was governed by a Viceroy appointed by the King of Spain. Juan O'Donojú, a distinguished Spanish military officer of Irish descent, was named as Viceroy in 1821, in the last year of the long war for Mexican independence. When O'Donojú arrived in Mexico, most of the country was under the control of the rebels under the leadership of Agustín Iturbide. O'Donojú saw that independence was inevitable, and met with Iturbide to work out the terms of a treaty recognizing the independence of the new nation.