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Visiting the former Hotel Piriápolis, at Piriápolis, Uruguay: an educational centre, the brainchild of Dr. Emilio Oribe

Updated on November 5, 2015
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
View of the former Grand Piriápolis Hotel from the coastal promenade.
View of the former Grand Piriápolis Hotel from the coastal promenade. | Source
Former Hotel Piriápolis
Former Hotel Piriápolis | Source
Bronze sculpture of Emilio Oribe
Bronze sculpture of Emilio Oribe | Source

Full of profile

At the Maldonado department's resort of Piriápolis, the former Hotel Piriápolis is among the most prominent of buildings, even though dwarfed by the enormous, adjacent Argentino Hotel.

Dating from 1904, the fortress-like building by Uruguayan architect Alfredo Jones Brown (1876-1950)(1) is reminiscent of a solid, Mediterranean stronghold (2). Its strongly square window motifs and crenelated eves are among the most conspicuous of features. Situated at the Rambla costanera (Coastal promenade), the former hotel's style belies its early 20th century origins.

For its time, the former hotel was sumptuously furnished, with Limoges porcelain, Italian furniture and carpets from Smyrna.

The former Piriápolis Hotel was first sponsored by the resort's founder don Francisco Piria (1847-1933). A somewhat macabre chapter to the building's history relates to the fact that when a hotel its manager was Carlos Bonavita who in 1934 perpetrated the murder of Francisco Pancho Piria, eldest son of the founder (3), whom he shot dead close to nearby Pan de Azúcar, before proceeding to the Hotel Piriápolis and, in turn, fatally shooting himself. The building has not wanted for eventful history.

After these startling events, time moved on. Since 1946 the former hotel building has functioned as a vacation residence for students, directed by Maestra Josefa Arrién Jaureguiberry. The building is officially named for its founder Uruguayan educationalist Dr. Manuel Oribe (1893-1975)(4), who in one of his capacities served as a government school inspector. As a state sponsored educational facility (Colonia escolar de vacaciones), the Republic's coat of arms adorns the doorway of the building's main entrance.

In recent times this educational institution has been the subject of lively public discussion, with national legislators emphasizing — perhaps predictably — its funding needs for the some 3000 students who annual use the facility (5).

The building is also used as a tourist information centre and I recall receiving here quite substantial amounts of very useful historical information and literature.

November 5, 2015


(1) Other works by Architect Alfredo Jones Brown include the Edificio Rex, in Montevideo, and other prominent buildings in that city. Alfredo Jones was a great-grandson of distinguished Argentinian Admiral Guillermo Brown.

(2) Both for its light coloured stonework, its prominent tower and crenelations, I am somewhat reminded of the Prince's Palace at Monaco.

(3) See also: ;

(4) Dr. Oribe was also a poet and a widely published writer and philosopher, who served as Dean of Humanities and Sciences at the University of the Republic (UdelaR), Montevideo. He was notably an interpreter of the thought of the immensely influential Uruguayan essayist José Enrique Rodó (1871-1917).

(5) See also (in Spanish):

Some sourcing: Wikipedia.

Hotel Piriápolis
Hotel Piriápolis | Source
Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay
Map location of Maldonado department, Uruguay | Source

Also worth seeing

Piriápolis is a resort on the River Plate (Spanish: Río de la Plata ) Estuary, founded by don Francisco Piria, which over the years has been particularly popular with Argentinians. In fact, the name of its largest hotel is Argentino Hotel , between which and the former Hotel Piriápolis a bust of don Francisco Piria stands. The Castle (Spanish: Castillo) is also named for him. The Hotel Colón is another distinguished building.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Mainly seasonal flights from Buenos Aires also operate to Laguna del Sauce International Airport, which principally serves the nearby Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este . 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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