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Visiting the former Central Railroad Station, Montevideo, Uruguay: gracious structure by Luis Andreoni, dating from 1897
A crowning achievement of the Belle Époque
This gracious building, located in the Aguada suburb of Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, was inaugurated during the Presidency of Juan Idiarte Borda (1844-1897)(1), among whose achievements was the developing of programs of public works; during his Presidency, the railroad network also continued its extension.
At the front of the building there stands a statue of General José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850), for whom the former Central Station building was named. This work was by the noted Uruguayan sculptor José Luis Zorilla de San Martín.
The structure dates from the Belle Époque period, and its optimistic, ornate frontage, with some intricate carvings, are typical of public buildings of its time. Its pillaring and arching form major features of its main frontage, as does its prominent balcony. Its design was by the engineer Luis Andreoni (1853-1936)(2).
Uruguay's railroad network started functioning from the late 1860s onwards. At one point, passenger services extended to the Brazilian and Argentinian borders, although the current, rationalized network is used principally for freight services, with passenger services being mainly limited to the Montevideo area and neighbouring departments. Much of the early investment in Uruguay's railroads came from Great Britain. In 1952 the state owned Administración de Ferrocarriles del Estado - AFE (State Railroad Administration) was formed (3).
A new, smaller station facility was built a few years ago near the former Central Railroad Station building. While this former Station is currently not used for its original purpose, its gracious lines continue to constitute one of Montevideo's many noted landmarks.
The former Central Railroad Station is located at La Paz 1095 , in Montevideo's Aguada suburb.
May 17, 2012
(1) President Juan Idiarte Borda was assassinated in Montevideo a few weeks after the Central Station's opening. Interestingly, the Castillo Idiarte Borda , a sumptuous castle in Montevideo, designed to be the Presidential residence, has recently been refurbished into a fine conference and hospitality facility.
(2) Other Montevideo buildings for which Luis Andreoni was responsible include the Italian Hospital and the Club Uruguay.
(3) The AFE was privatised in 2011, ironically by the Socialist Frente Amplio government, whereas the AFE's nationalization was carried out by a nominally liberal-conservative Colorado government. (So, is this a case of Uruguay bucking trends? or proving, rather, the less than satisfactory nature of political labels? This writer does not have the answers.)
Also worth seeing
In Montevideo itself, other noted sights include: the Legislative Palace; the Salvo Palace; the Independence Building facing Plaza Independencia; the Obelisk; the main building of the University of the Republic (UdelaR); and many others.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . The Uruguayan airline PLUNA, which codeshares with VARIG, flies to a number of Latin American regional destinations. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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