A little far from the center of Santa Teresa, the Parque das Ruínas is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful views of the neighborhood, although it is little known and almost always empty [less true these days]. The main attraction is the view overlooking the bay on one side and the city center on the other. With Rio de Janeiro at your feet, the viewpoint is perfect to understand the geography of the city, from the top of Santa Teresa.
It’s recommended for dates, relaxing, reading a book or for a good chat with a privileged background.
The Park and the ruins are the remnants of the Palacete Murtinho Nobre, erected between 1898 and 1902, and where Laurinda Santos Lobo lived, a society lady and heiress of a very rich family. Her house was one of the most effervescent spots of the cultural life of Rio de Janeiro and the local scene where famous singers performed for prominent figures of the time.
Later, abandoned, the place was invaded, plundered and occupied by beggars and traffickers. It is said that even the doorknobs, which were made of gold, were stolen during this period of abandonment.
In 1993, the State of Rio gave protection status to the property and, in 1997, the Parque das Ruínas was inaugurated. The ruins today have a style that blends bricks with metallic and glass structures.
The park also has an exhibition hall, auditorium and cafeteria, which work with special events. In the outdoor areas there are shows and a special program for children on weekends. The beautiful views begin right at the entrance to the park and continue to the top of the house. But the best of them all is on the ground floor, at the back of the house, next to the cafeteria. – Source (PT)
The Palacete Murtinho Nobre: from splendor to ruin
The palace at Rua Murtinho Nobre, 169, in Santa Teresa, was the residence of Joaquim Murtinho (1848 – 1911), doctor for great figures from the Old Republic and famous for restoring the republican finances in the Campos Sales government (1898-1902), in which he was the finance minister. Of refined education, Dr Murtinho was a civil engineer, doctor of medicine (specialized in homeopathy, owner of Mate-Laranjeira) and professor at the Polytechnic School. He also served as vice-president of the Senate.
At the end of the 19th century, knowing about the death of his brother-in-law, Dr Murtinho received his sister and her daughter, Laurinda (1878 – 1946), whom he resolved to support and provide the best education. Thus, after being married, the niece joined her uncle in his taste for dances, soirees, theater and all the cultural and leisure activity available in Rio’s Belle-Époque. More than that, while the old uncle began to move away from social activities, Laurinda became prominent in the social columns and enjoyed great prestige with the political and artistic classes, having been an inspiration for João do Rio’s chronicles.
In 1911, Joaquim Murtinho died without leaving descendants and constituted Laurinda as sole heir of its property: villas in Petrópolis, the Mate-Laranjeiras factory, the shares of Ferro-Carril and, especially, the Murtinho mansion, that in the hands of Laurinda would witness glorious moments. Now rich, Laurinda consolidated her position in society, becoming a patron of artists and opening the halls of the mansion for the most famous dances and lyrical-musical events of the beginning of the last century. Laurinda was a woman ahead of her time: she presided over the Council of the Brazilian Federation for Women’s Progress and used her prestige for feminist struggles. During the 1920s she promoted meetings about Modernism, and raised funds to publicize composer Villa-Lobos in Paris. Determined, she even helped artists that were unknown to society, such as Sílvio Caldas, who played guitar at one of her soirees. During her time in Paris, where she held residence, she also received and helped promote Brazilian artists in search of international recognition.
Laurinda died in 1946 at the age of 68, leaving no descendants. Her mother (deceased in 1960, at 92) and stepfather (who passed away the following year) remained in the house. After the stepfather’s death, a long-running lawsuit followed for the possession of the property and its contents, which in 1965 would be definitively transferred to the Hahnemannian Institute, as Laurinda had determined. In the meantime, as the house was unguarded, it was constantly ransacked, with trucks at the door, taking what was of value in the small palace (which, incidentally, still occurs with properties listed as being of historical heritage and with churches). Without being maintained and subject to bad weather, the beautiful mansion deteriorated, suffering with the invasion of the homeless and finally remaining in ruins, becoming a hide-out and a place for drug use.
After constant complaints from neighborhood residents and at the suggestion of a group of illustrious residents in Santa Teresa, led by the theatrologist Paschoal Carlos Magno, the city council expropriated the house in 1979, but its restoration was no longer possible. He opted then to take advantage of its ruins as an integral part of a new architectural concept. As for the life and glory of the illustrious resident, there is little left of her memory until it was redeemed by Hilda Machado in her book “Laurinda Santos Lobo: Mecenas, artistas e outros marginais em Santa Teresa” (Casa da Palavra, 2002).
Today, few of her belongings can be seen in the permanent exhibition at the Laurinda Santos Lobo Cultural Center, installed in the former residence of Senator Joaquim Lima Pires, acquired by his family in the 1970s. The history of Rua Murtinho Nobre is an example of government neglect with our historic assets. If they were in a European city, our mansions, which safely hold very important moments of the history of Brazil, would be well-preserved, illuminated, guarded, and serving cultural tourism, which financially supports so many cities in the old continent.
Tardily acquired by the city, what remained of the palace received architectural interventions and became the Municipal Cultural Center Parque das Ruínas, inaugurated in 1997 to house exhibitions, musical, theatrical and literary programs. And so the old place of so many soirees and dances resumed the activities of its past and there it remains like witness of a time that will never return again. – Source (PT)
For additional text (in PT) and images from the era, see the magazine clippings I found below while searching through online archives.