A Walk through the Madrid of the Past

It is crazy to think that our ancestors once traveled along the same streets we walk on today. These photographs of the old and former Madrid transport us to a time long ago. When the cars were carriages, when Madrid was a quarter of what it is today and in it one could see the vestiges of the modernity that it would reach. Almost everything is different: fashion, the subway that replaces the tram, etc…However, buildings survive the footprint of time and remain perfectly recognizable.

The Atocha Station

The carriage in the first photograph and the almost absence of transit is surprising in what today is one of the most crowded roundabouts in the capital. The photo of the old Madrid dates back to 1929, and it was taken from the left side of the station. The recent one was taken from the right side. The Atocha Station was inaugurated in 1892 and took the name Estación del Mediodía. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it became a key piece in the work of expanding Madrid. So much that they modified the plans and it became the boundary between the Old Town of the city and the Ensanche.

Bank of Spain

This photograph of the old Madrid shows us the Bank of Spain in its first years of life. We do not know the exact date on which the image was taken, but we can place it around the first decades of the twentieth century. On July 4, 1884, the first stone was laid down during a ceremony attended by Alfonso XII. The bank was finally inaugurated in 1891. Although it looks like a single building, it is actually the sum of an original property and three expansions. This was done by the work of five architects: Severiano Sainz de la Lastra, Eduardo Adaro, José Yarnoz, Javier Yárnoz and Rafael Moneo. All of them had one objective in common: to equip the financial institution of Spain with a prestigious and majestic air. The last expansion occurred in 2006, in an event attended by the royal couple Juan Carlos I and Sofia. From the first stone to the last, they spent 122 years building the bank.

Caso de Campo Lake

In this case, this snapshot of old Madrid moves us to a rather interesting story. In 1932, and before 15,000 people could be found here,  the first tests of the so-called air generator were conducted, a device invented by Adrián Álvarez Ruiz to perfect the air generation systems of the submarines. However, after 90 minutes, the test was suspended because of a breakdown.

Alcalá Street

Between the first photo and the second one we can see the exaggerated growth that has experienced that Gran Vía has experienced in Madrid. Only the Church of San José, located on the right side of the image with a pink hue, remains recognizable, still standing since being built in 1748. There is no trace of the legendary Metropolis building. We would have to wait until 1911 for its inauguration. To build it, they had to demolish up to seven houses, among them the one that appears in the photograph of the old Madrid. It stands out because of its narrowness, which gave it the name of Casa del Ataúd.

Bullring of Las Ventas

At first glance they may look like the same building. However, in the first photo it is the Bullring de Goya in old Madrid, inaugurated in September, 1874. Given the great popularity of the bulls at the time, the first Mudejar styled bullring was built with a seating capacity of almost 15,000 spectators. In addition, special places were included for royalty, the president, the deputation and the musicians. Because the popularity and population of Madrid were on the rise, Goya’s place was soon too small. In 1931, they inaugurated the Bullring of Las Ventas (Plaza de Toros), with a similar style and with a capacity for more than 25,000 attendees. It would not be until three years later when it would be declared the only bullring in Madrid, with the other one being demolished.

Callao Plaza

Since taking the picture of the Callao Plaza in old Madrid, it has been 60 years. It dates back to 1957, but there are not many differences. Gran Vía was created with the aim of directing the traffic in an area that was dominated by dozens of houses and winding streets. This new development was clamoring to adapt to the modernity that the capital was going to experience.The only observable difference is that the cars are in the square, something that would happen until the pedestrianization of the square in 2002.

Puerta del Sol

What would Madrid be without Puerta del Sol (The Gate of the Sun)? It is the epicenter of history and life in Madrid. This photograph of the old Madrid shows Puerta del Sol during the first decades of the twentieth century. Transited by trams, carriages and pedestrians, it gives off a vitality that is still felt today. Constantly overcrowded, taken over by street performers and foreign visitors, a center for protest and demonstrations… It’s impossible to get bored when you walk around here.

Queen Victoria Bridge

In the far north of the Madrid River, we find the Bridge of Queen Victoria. It was inaugurated on June 13th, 1909, coinciding with the festival of San Antonio de Padua. The inauguration was presided over by the Royal family Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, who the bridge was dedicated to. If you look at the image of the old Madrid, it is surprising to see the women who washed themselves in the Manzanares. It  would take a few more years for the running water to reach the houses. Goya dedicated a painting to them.

Text: Paloma Díaz Espiñeira

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