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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old and in with the New

During the five years we have lived in the apartment in Ipanema we have heard many stories about the two houses and one apartment building sitting vacant across the street.
It is (or was) apparent that at one point they were quite handsome homes. They had the look of many of the houses that are still scattered throughout Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon - houses preserved with loving care.
We heard that at one point they were private homes, beach houses or vacation homes for the rather rich that lived in the old central Rio or possibly even Sao Paulo. At the turn of the century (20th) this was the country - incredible thought isn't it? It was farm land, none of the tunnels that ease access to this part of town were there, driving over (hum, driving? maybe coming by wagon or horse, and surely byway of trail or small dirt roads) for the weekend or the summer at the beach just like all Brazilians love do today.   
Back to the houses across the street - we heard that these houses and the building were once a famous school. We heard that all this property was owned by one family. That at one point it was all for sale, and sold and then one of the family protested the sale.
We heard that the government (or the family member or other parties depending on which porteiro was telling the story) wanted the property protected as a historical sight. It (the property) was in limbo.
In limbo means - no maintenance was done. I imagine no taxes paid. One weekend about 3 years ago there was pounding in the dark of night and part of the roof and some of the windows disappeared before the police came. At that point a high white wall went up and was topped with barbwire (razor wire) - so someone cared. (the wall was soon dirty and 3rd world looking)
The three years passed. Even though great expense was expended to put up a fence, iron bars on the lower windows and to post a guard at night, no effort was made to patch the roof and the natural vegetation began to take back the land. Yes, trees began to grow out of the roof. Green slime and other growth began to cover the outer walls, run down the side of the houses generally creating a great eye sore. I am sorry but I didn't take photos of the trees - I was going to one day and never did.
On the 29th of December 2008, an engineering sign appeared, then workers. About 20 workers came and took the remaining roof tiles, all the doors and windows, piping and who knows what else that might be considered recyclable. In less than one day the houses were shells. (the old apartment building was always a shell)ON the 30th a gate in the wall appeared and then a bulldozer arrived and the houses began to come down. Today the 31st, more work with the bulldozer finished off one house, and two men began with sledgehammers on the apartment building.
Now it is clear that this is a very big piece of land. We now can see that there was a large 3 story building at the back, by the architecture looks mid 70s. Maybe this was added when the school was there.
So now there will be a new apartment building or a fancy hotel inserted in this space. The battle between family members and the government was won through neglect. But no matter on what battlefield it was won - after 5 years of looking at inner city decay and blight in our own front yard, we can only benefit by the taking out of the old and bringing in of the new.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Ginger and Camillo

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