Evidently, the result of this process of
absorption, which will appear in greater clarity in the first third of the 20th
century, was that, at the same time that the bourgeoisie became aristocratic in
possessions and tastes, - they bought lands, built palaces, - and
became religious devotees and frequented temples and churches, the aristocracy
began to act like bourgeoisie, - they bought stock, learned to speculate
and to sit on boards of directors of corporations. -
Such, then, is the origin of the
"financial aristocracy," privileged
protagonists of the economic activities of Madrid, until well into the years of
the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.
The economic and social success of these
fortunes, - comparable only with those of very few noble houses, such as
the Medinaceli or Alba, yet frequently superior to many others, not a few of
them in bankruptcy, including the house of Osuna, - showed immediately in
their progressive occupation of new Madrid.
If the old quarters of the city had
exhausted its supply of building lots, the expanded areas will offer terrain at
good prices to duplicate there, as far as possible, the styles of nobiliary
From 1873 and for the next ten years, the
construction industry in Madrid will know one of its great moments of splendor.
What develops out of this lively rhythm of
building, - and not what Fernández de los Ríos had
projected, - will be the identification of the new expanded areas as
nobiliary/bourgeois; this will define the future of Madrid, or certainly, one of
Madrid's most representative zones.
The avenues of Recoletos and Castellana,
which rarely had attracted distinguished dwellers before the revolution, now
become, - in a Madrid with better communications, - a most
expensive axis where grow, as if by magic, palaces and large private houses, in
a mix of all tastes: neo-Mudejar, classic, Italianate, or in French styles, ...
Here the old titled aristocracy and the new
nobility create their mansions, which the restored monarchy is prodigal in
multiplying, and where high government officials seek their accommodations, or
successful politicians and the most celebrated writers, and a pleiade of rich
bourgeois find homes.
And although the frontiers of the ancient
inner city and the newly widened parts will open doors from the year l892
- twenty-six years after the start these works, - any one of those
buildings, - which Fernández de los Ríos would with
pleasure see as a symbol of the nation, - the National Library, the
Recoletos/Castellana area, and the immediate surroundings, will become the
authentic bourgeois Madrid.
It is not strange that to the right and left
of that new nobiliary-bourgeoisie axis, in which during the Restoration, the
Paseos of Recoletos and Castellana are created, land becomes more valuable and
is sold rapidly.
The quarter of Santa Bárbara, to the
left and northerly, is the first to profit, with palaces, mansions and fine
buildings of five or six storeys. The installation of elevators from the year
1874 liquidates, almost immediately, any non-uniformity of renters in these
Here, and characteristically in other
bourgeois districts, such as that of Alfonso XII, except the principal one,
which the proprietor continued reserving for himself, the rest of the storeys
offer only two bedchambers for well-to-do renters, and not like before, when
there were more bedchambers and less space as stairs were added upwards.
In the Salamanca, a district of much greater
extent, the plots closer to the new axis follow the same pattern, but as
construction goes on from this street, the new middle-class of professionals
will be the ones to be most visible.
It is not that there will be no building of
fine mansions along the routes of the principal streets of the new district,
- there will be no lack of mansions and palaces, - but as
restrictions to volume of construction have disappeared, the more rentable use
of space will encourage owners and constructors to present a greater offering
within the reach of the middle-class and even of skilled workers.
And finally it is that the new Madrid will
not go on defining itself as a bourgeois city, - with great avenues,
stone fronts, many forked plazas, national monuments, big businesses, and
traffic, - but as a nobiliary bourgeois city, - mansions and
palaces, private gardens, - more representative in its central axis of
renter proprietors, small merchant bourgeoisie, middle-class administrative and
professionals in the bordering areas.
Because, in this Madrid of the Restoration,
is where intellectuals and professionals begin to appear, a sector of society of
quite another kind.
The Central University, conceived at the top
of the educational system, becomes a powerful center of attraction for
professors, for whom an access to a university chair in Madrid, apart from its
economic advantages, could serve as a springboard to a political career or
But, in addition to academic opportunities,
Madrid now opens wide a market to new professionals, - engineers and
architects, - who find work in construction of dwellings and official
buildings, and the city maintains, as always, a great array of opportunities for
writers and journalists.
Nevertheless, the people of Madrid are not
the essence of virtue and heroism, and ready to give blood to the cause of
liberty. The people now are ignorant and illiterate, incapable of finding any
sense in things, drawn to popular folk-shows, sitting at the curbstone of the
roads of history.
This new perception and the growing distance
between the intellectual elite and the people is, in addition to being the
consequence of political experiences unleashed by the revolution of 1868, a
direct result of the transformation of the city, of gradual segregation of
districts and the slow loss of the presence of common people in the inner city.
The end of the people's revolutions is the
beginning, in the formation of Madrid, of a political class that does not owe
its rise in power to street turbulence or revolts, but to linkings in
dependencies and client relationships, which they succeed in establishing with
their own points of origin.
If the fusion of high commercial bourgeoisie
with the landowner nobility - the conversion of Manzanedo into a Duke of
Santona, for example, - will give place to an aristocracy of finance, a
new parliamentary system with parties of notables who peacefully take turns in
power, this will be the key for consolidation in Madrid, of a class of
professional politicians closely allied to local chiefs.
It is the new political class which will
make the effort to carry out some of the reforms and innovations in Madrid,
which the moderates of the years of the forties and the revolutionaries of the
sixties had harbored or proposed.
It will be now, in the decade of the
eighties, when privately financed construction sinks into a long depression,
when Madrid is endowed with some of the many buildings which Mesonero Romanos
found lacking in a capital worthy of a monarchy, and Fernández de los Ríos
missed in a city worthy of the nation.
Market-places, like those of Cebada and
Mostenses, - the first iron structures built in Madrid, - which
the revolution had projected and which the monarchy inaugurated, rail stations
such as the Norte, Delicias and Atocha, - which take the place of the old
loading-docks, - buildings destined to lift to prominence the city's
cultural sphere, such as the Museums of Ethnology and of Natural Sciences, the
National Library, the Royal Spanish Academy, or the new site of the Athenaeum on
the Calle del Prado.
Copyright © 2002 by
JLL & JRP
All rights reserved.