published by El Confidencial, Spain
It is the ‘prime’ area par excellence of the residential market of Madrid luxury. We are talking about the Salamanca neighborhood, whose origin dates back to the second half of the 19th century and whose history is inextricably linked to two figures. Carlos María de Castro, one of the great Madrid urban planners and architect of the Madrid expansion, and José María de Salamanca y Mayol, Marqués de Salamanca, one of the great landowners of the eastern expansion, where the Salamanca neighborhood was located. The latter was one of the main promoters of a neighborhood (in fact, its name is due to him).
The neighborhood was initially called upon to accommodate the Madrid middle class, but it ended up receiving the nobility and high bourgeoisie of the 19th century and becoming the true heart of the Eixample East due to its rapid organization and provision of services compared to the rest of the areas of Madrid.
In fact, as Borja Carballo Barral explains in ‘The origins of Modern Madrid: El Ensanche Este (1860-1878)’, “the new infrastructures and public services became a reality at the same rate that the buildings flourished”.
From that moment on, interest in living in the Salamanca neighborhood of the wealthier classes has only grown to this day, especially among the rich Latin Americans, and among them, among Venezuelan buyers. A huge appetite that is concentrated in just a handful of streets, which undoubtedly makes it difficult to find not only buildings, but homes that meet the high demands of these buyers, since, although since 2014 there are several rehabilitation projects that have been carried out in the neighborhood, in general they are very old houses and buildings, some of them with almost two centuries of history.
“Salamanca is the favorite neighborhood for Latin Americans who want to have a ‘pied-à-terre’ in Madrid as a bridge to Europe. This type of client values restored classic buildings, if possible with ‘amenities’ and parking spaces, and is willing to pay more to have a premium location close to fashionable places. In addition, the Salamanca neighborhood encompasses the entire most cosmopolitan area of Madrid, where luxury shops and trendy restaurants are located. It is the luxury neighborhood par excellence”, highlights Elena Jori, director of Real Estate at Home Select. “Salamanca and Jerónimos continue to be that ‘object of desire’ for every Latin American investor and a house in Alfonso XII is like being on 5th Avenue contemplating Central Park.”
“The consolidation of the Salamanca neighborhood in recent years as the preferred place for Latin Americans both to live or to spend time has been a natural evolution, since, in a sufficiently large space, at the same time central and very comfortable, they have it everything close and with a lot of variety in every way. Starting with a wide range of restaurants, luxury ’boutiques’, clubs, neighborhood shops and even El Corte Inglés together with very good communication with the rest of the city, airport or train, and with the ease of being able to walk, while in their countries of origin or in cities like Miami they always depend on the car. And let’s not forget the Parque del Retiro, the jewel of the neighborhood and its proximity to it, which is always a plus to keep in mind”, says Luis Valdés, ‘managing director’ of Residential Sales Advisory in Colliers.
In the Architecture Guide of the College of Architects of Madrid (COAM), a database that collects the history of the most representative buildings in the city, there are cataloged about 120 buildings for residential use in the neighborhood, whose construction date dates, in some cases, to the recently released second half of the 19th century, that is, at the height of the construction maelstrom of the Marquis of Salamanca.
Why the Salamanca neighborhood
Why the rise of the Salamanca neighborhood? Why did the bourgeoisie concentrate there and not in other areas? Part of the explanation has to do with the neighborhood’s infrastructures and services. And, in the case of Salamanca, this was a really differentiating aspect compared to other areas of Madrid. Why?
The status conferred by living in the Salamanca neighborhood has remained in force to this day. Although this was not always the case, since, in its origins, bankers, large merchants, rentiers or large owners preferred to live in the old part of the city. Little by little, and especially after the arrival of the tram to the streets of the Salamanca district, a good part of that high bourgeoisie began to abandon the old town in favor of the luxurious houses of the new district.
In fact, the Marquis of Salamanca was key in the arrival of the tram. In 1871, with the help of British capital, he launched “the first tramway in Madrid that linked the Salamanca neighborhood with that of Pozas through the Puerta del Sol”, Borja Carballo Barral recounts.
In 19th century Madrid, the greater the number of buildings built in a neighborhood, the greater the share of income from land tax. Some income that, as Borja Carballo relates, was invested in the new public infrastructure that the neighborhood needed. Which, as he explains in his academic work, “in the long run became the main mechanism of segregation and social compartmentalization in the development of the Ensanche de Madrid”.
And it is that, as the author explains, “the ruling lay in the fact that the land tax paid for the new buildings was recorded based on the quality of the buildings and not the number of rooms or the number of tenants that could In this way, those neighborhoods that had more luxurious and ornate buildings, but that housed a smaller population, as in the case of the Salamanca neighborhood, had a larger income account with which to deal with the payments of the infrastructure works and public services. On the other hand, those spaces of the expansion in which most of the popular classes resided, always maintained a reduced capacity to carry out the necessary public investments”.
Unlike what happens today, at the end of the 19th century, the different social classes could come to live not only in the same neighborhood, but in the same building, although the nobility used to live in their own palaces. There was what experts have called vertical segregation.
“All the large industrial landowning families moved to the Salamanca neighborhood, the luxury neighborhood par excellence. The wealthy families built large palaces (Linares, Zabálburu or Arenzana), but buildings were also built where the middle class could live and even the lower middle class. Not surprisingly, until the elevator was invented, different social classes coexisted in the same building. As you went up the floor, the classes were less affluent”, explains the architect Carlos Lamela.
The Palace of the Marqués Linares (1863) is a characteristic example of 19th century Madrid palatial architecture. It was abandoned for a long period of time, and was even threatened with demolition, according to the COAM Architecture Guide. In 1976, however, it was declared a historical-artistic monument and was acquired by the Madrid City Council. Currently, it is the headquarters of Casa de América.
It was very common for the owner of the building to establish the main residence on the first floor —on many occasions with its own entrance— and allocate the rest of the homes for rent. Obviously, as you went up in height, the rents varied. A century and a half ago, the higher the altitude, the lower the rent paid. Example of a rental in a building in the Salamanca neighborhood. Salustiano Olózga, 6. 1878. Page 237.
“The upper floors, the basements and the attics were the exclusive predominance of the day laborer families, mostly of immigrant origin who could only afford to face the cheapest rents. The floods of immigrants As they flowed towards the capital, they settled in those areas that were most affordable for their meager coffers, whether in roof tiles, inns or in the attics or basements of the new buildings erected”, Borja Carballo relates.
“It is very curious that, back in the 19th century, the service lived on the highest floors of the buildings and the families on the ground floor. In the oldest and most exclusive estates owned by Claudio Coello, for example, you can see how the houses Located on the ground floor, they have four-meter-high ceilings and wider walls.Comfort prevailed, due to the lack of elevators and the temperature, as the rooms are cooler in summer and warmer in winter due to the walls and the protection of the high floors”, highlights Óscar Larrea, John Taylor’s ‘executive director’.
Within the Salamanca neighborhood, there are several examples that we can find of the interest of the high bourgeoisie in those first floors of the buildings. Velázquez 21 is a clear example. The building was commissioned by Francisco Sánchez-Pleites, Marquis of Frómista, to the architect José Espelius Anduaga in order to use the main floor for his own residence and the rest, including the penthouses, for rent, according to the Madrid Architecture Guide. of the COAM. This building was also pioneering because “for the first time the storage rooms for the tenants were located in the semi-basement, instead of in the usual attics, thus reducing the consequences of a fortuitous fire”.
But, in addition, as one advanced in height, not only did social status decrease, but the floors were smaller and there were more units than on the lower floors.
“There was a very strong socioeconomic segregation in height. From those residents who could afford to pay almost 600 pesetas a month in rent for a house at their complete disposal to those poor wretches who lived poorly without seeing the light in basements through which who paid an average of 13.44 pesetas a month”, says Borja Carballo in ‘The origins of Modern Madrid: El Ensanche Este (1860-1878)’. “Attics, entrance halls, basements, mezzanines, garages and ground floors housed a large population that did not belong to New Madrid. A legion of domestic service workers who lived in their employers’ houses.”
The elevator revolution
The situation turned around with the arrival of elevators at the end of the 19th century as their installation began to spread among the large buildings in the center of the capital. Those who previously wanted to live on those first floors began to move to the upper floors, especially the last one. The attics and basements became the attics as we know them today, an asset whose revaluation in recent years has been spectacular due to the enormous shortage of product for sale on the market. The first floors, on the contrary, began to be used as offices already in the 20th century.
Elisa Pérez Honrubia, in her book ‘Madrid of the 19th century (Ensanche del barrio del Marqués de Salamanca)’, also gives an account of this vertical segregation and its end with the arrival of the elevator.
“The first two floors were occupied by the upper bourgeoisie and the third by the lower bourgeoisie. The attic was left for the servants. Sometimes, inside each building there is an unlandscaped patio that favors the ventilation and lighting of the interior rooms of the building “, he explains in reference to the housing block limited by Serrano, Claudio Coello, Goya and Jorge Juan streets (Serrano 32), one of the first two buildings built and which followed the Castro Plan that included interior gardens in the block patios . “These buildings were built without an elevator, which gave rise to a vertical segregation that disappeared at the end of the 19th century (1893) when these were installed,” Pérez Honrubia points out.
Large number of gates
Another of the striking points of the Ensanche Este was the large number of gates built in the wealthier areas of the Salamanca district, which prompted the rise of this type of profession that had a very low economic remuneration. In fact, “the lower floors, but especially the entrance halls, represented the real opportunity for those workers with little or no qualification to share a residence with social classes of greater economic power, being able to benefit from this fact,” writes Carballo.
“A vital example of this reality is found in the porter’s office at number 7 Calle Lista —currently Calle de José Ortega y Gasset— inhabited by the couple formed by Sebastián and Brígida, who came from the Asturian town of Yepes, and their 9-year-old niece. Baldomera years old. While Sebastián declared, as the head of the family, to be a bricklayer’s laborer and earn 1.75 pesetas a day, it was Brígida who acted as the caretaker of a building used as garages and belonging to the Singer Company. As is logical, It did not mean the same to occupy the goal of a property located in the Salamanca neighborhood —where the doorman occupied one of the lowest echelons of the property— than to do it in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Madrid or Arganzuela —where the doorman could be, to a certain extent, a privileged person for having insured accommodation—”, says Borja Carballo.
If vertical segregation was a reality in the Salamanca district, so was horizontal segregation. That is to say, it was not the same to live in a certain street in the Salamanca neighborhood than in another. Something that continues to happen today.
The nobility lived in their palaces
The nobility that decided to settle in the Salamanca district built their own palaces as a symbol of social status. Three of the most famous were the work of the architect Cristóbal Lecumberri, another of the great figures of 19th century Madrid. As Elena Jori recalls, “Lecumberri built 3 small hotels on Villanueva street, number 16, 18 and 20 (between Serrano and Claudio Coello streets). Currently only 18 is in use. Number 16 became a residential building in 1950. Until 1970, number 20 was a school that was demolished and transformed into another residential building.”
At number 18, the Casa-Palacio de los Marqueses de Bolaños still stands and is owned by a rich Mexican who has spent several years trying to sell it. He bought it in 2014 for more than 10 million euros and expects to obtain more than 20 with its sale, that is, more than double. According to the COAM Guide, it is the “only survivor of the group of isolated hotels that the Marquis built from Salamanca in the Ensanche and which were complemented by the apartment houses in a closed block”.
Why were few mansions built in the neighborhood? The Ensanche de Castro plan was too ambitious and met with little interest from the owners of the land and areas to be built. Without forgetting that the potential buyers of the houses, which were too expensive for the middle class, were also very few, which meant that only the areas around the Paseo de la Castellana were filled with palaces or houses of a certain category.
Villanueva 18 was one of the small palaces built by the Marquis of Salamanca and one of the first to be built in the Ensanche, next to the old bullring in Madrid. After its construction, it was acquired by Luis María Pérez de Guzmán Nieulant, senator of the kingdom and deputy of the Cortes, as well as the first Marquis of Bolaños, a title created by the Queen Regent María Cristina de Habsburgo in 1886.
About the Marquis and his wife an intense cultural life developed. The musical evenings at the mansion were famous at the time and were regularly attended by personalities such as Isaac Albéniz, Joaquín Sorolla and Cecilia Pla, among others. While prominent members of the aristocracy such as the Duchess of Medinaceli, Rosa Bauer or the Marquise of Acapulco also met.
Figure of the Marquis of Salamanca
The name of the Salamanca neighborhood comes from José de Salamanca y Mayol, Marquis of Salamanca, one of the most influential and wealthy men in Spain. His goal was to build 350 buildings spread over blocks of eight or 12 buildings, but he went bankrupt trying. Borja Carballo says that, since 1862, he invested more than 60 million reais in land.
*** From those years, from the time of the Marquis of Salamanca, are also the aforementioned Villanueva 18 (1865); the Palace of Zabálburu, in Marqués del Duero 7 (1872); the Palace of the Marqués de Linares, in Alcalá 55 (1872); the houses of the Compañía de Seguros La Peninsular (1863) at Calle Cid 3 and 5; the houses for Eusebio and Isidoro Matas (1872) in Alcalá 61; the houses for Sebastián Martínez (1876) at Salustiano Olózaga 7, or the houses and palace house of the Marquise de la Laguna (1863) on Calle Recoletos 4 to 12, 5.7, 15 and 17/Villalar 3 to 13. Also Jorge Juan 12, a set of commercial and hotel establishments (1870). Some old stables, garages and dairy farms in the Salamanca district. A homogeneous complex originally intended for auxiliary functions and equipment for the first bourgeois homes in the Eixample of Salamanca, now converted into premises.
Its financial problems began to be reflected in the quality of its constructions, although the buildings would continue to make a difference compared to other areas of Madrid. More homes began to be included in each building to increase rental income and to make better use of space, the interior gardens disappeared. In fact, only two blocks, the first two, included a garden in the courtyard of the block, as Castro had projected.
“One of the main innovations of the Castro Plan in the development of the Ensanche was, precisely, the approach of the block patios as indoor places for recreation and common life, which would improve the living conditions of the population, until then tending to buildings fully consolidated”, explain Paloma Relinque, director of CBRE’s Madrid office and Samuel Población, national director of residential and land at CBRE.
“Unfortunately, with the passage of time, this model would be abandoned, as improper uses were allowed and abusive land speculation was imposed, increasing heights, occupying interior green spaces, etc., since only the first two blocks, between the streets de Villanueva, Jorge Juan and Goya, today preserve this primitive arrangement”, according to the COAM Guide.
For Carlos Lamela, “the Salamanca neighborhood is the great urban operation of one of the most important men that Spain had. A great businessman of the first level, with contacts throughout Europe. He promoted the railway, worked on the stock market and in large corporations like almost all businessmen and he was also very tempted by the real estate issue and by creating a new neighborhood in Madrid in what were then the outskirts”.
“It was a bet and a very important investment to the point that it ruined him,” recalls Lamela. “It started with a series of blocks on Villanueva and Serrano, just as they were initially planned. We are talking about 1860-1870, when the entire bourgeoisie began to consider living there in larger, sunnier homes, with airy spaces and more open streets — the car had not yet arrived. Apples that were made taking the model of Baron Haussman —Napoleon III— for Paris, with gardens inside. However, later those spaces destined for gardens were filled with workshops, garages, factories …”.
The marquis had his own palace. At number 10 Paseo de Recoletos, a building that has remained standing to this day and stands on the former country house of the Count of Oñate. In the mid-19th century, it was considered “the richest and most modern palace in Madrid”, as stated in the COAM Guide. It was acquired by Banco Hipotecario to install its headquarters there, which led to successive extensions, the most important being after the Civil War.
The most representative buildings
Within the Salamanca district, there are several examples that we can find of the interest of the upper bourgeoisie in those first floors of the buildings.
Velázquez 21 (1904) is a clear example. The building was commissioned by Francisco Sánchez-Pleites, Marquis of Frómista, to the architect José Espelius Anduaga, in order to use the main floor for his own residence and the rest, including the attics, for rent, according to the Architecture Guide of Madrid prepared by the College of Architects of Madrid (COAM). This building was also pioneering because “for the first time the storage rooms for the tenants were located in the semi-basement, instead of in the usual attics, thus reducing the consequences of a fortuitous fire”.
During the 1960s, part of the building was adapted as a commercial premises and the first floors were occupied for years by the famous Gancedo tapestries, until the building was sold in 2019 to the owners of the Grifols pharmaceutical company, which is renovating it to make floors. deluxe.
Less than 400 meters from Velázquez 21, at Serrano 9 (1908), is the former palace of the Marquis de Portago, current headquarters of the Illustrious Bar Association. The building was built in 1908 for the Count of Mejorada, brother of the Marquis of Portago. The main floor, as in Velázquez 21, was dedicated to the owner’s palace and the upper floors to large private homes. It was converted into offices in 1975.
Another example is the Palacio de Castanedo, at Velázquez 63 (1905), whose main floor and part of the ground floor —specifically the garage, garage and garden— were for the exclusive use of the promoter, Julio Castanedo , while the remaining floors were used for three rental homes, one per level, for the high bourgeoisie. It is the typical bourgeois residence from the beginning of the century in the Ensanche.
Count Aranda 7 (1888). Two residential buildings for rent for the Madrid bourgeoisie. Attics for storage rooms. The attics, which did not exist as we know them today, but were attics or basements, were reserved for servants or were even used as storage rooms that, unlike what happens today, occupied the highest floors of the apartments. buildings.
Alcalá 93 (1901). Former palace house of Federico Ortiz who established his residence on the main floor and the rest was used for rental housing.
Villanueva 13 (1896). Dwellings for the Count of Valmaseda for rent. And Lagasca 23 (1895). Homes for the Marquis of Cubas also intended for rent. In both cases, the first project was scrapped due to its lack of profitability.
Claudio Coello 14 to 28 (1863). These blocks, predominantly residential, are the first urban complex built within the Madrid Ensanche projected by Castro, with the direct promotion of the Marquis of Salamanca. Absolute respect for the large block patio, conceived as an interior garden.
Others, although they have been maintained, have changed their use. Serrano 46, for example, is one of the original buildings in the Salamanca district. It was expanded in three heights between 1954 and 1957. Currently, it houses the ICON Embassy hotel.
Many of the buildings from that second half of the 19th century, not only in the Salamanca district, but in the rest of Madrid, have disappeared. “20% or 30% disappeared due to urban pressure. They were not considered an asset of cultural interest that had to be protected, so many of these historic buildings were sold and demolished to build another one,” laments Carlos Lamela.
***An example, where the PP headquarters currently stands, at Génova 13 —Almagro neighborhood—, used to be the palace of the Marquises of Bermad. It was demolished in 1977 because until 1978 there was no plan for the protection of historic buildings.
The disappearance of those buildings gave rise to modern architecture, explains Lamela. “The lack of protection of the buildings, together with the appearance of modern architecture and the general plans of the 70s and 80s that contemplated very high buildable areas, favored the disappearance of historic buildings. An example was the disappearance of the fire station on the street O’Donell 4, next to El Retiro Park, which was auctioned by the City Council. The Torres de Valencia were built on the ground”.
According to the COAM Guide, the Madrid City Council, in order to achieve a better yield for the land, gave it maximum buildability, “which caused a strong controversy during its construction.”
“Architectural fashion is changing. An example of this is the Garrigues headquarters at Hemosilla 3, the Edificio Girasol at José Ortega y Gasset 23 (1964), built on the corner site occupied by Francisco Silvela’s mansion, a work of Pioneer in the Lista neighborhood, built in 1898. Another clear example of modern architecture is the Fundación Juan March building (1971), at Castelló 77. However, despite everything, the general character of the neighborhood is maintained, it is quite homogeneous”, concludes Lamela.
In the 21st century, the Salamanca neighborhood is one of the richest and most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. According to data from the Tax Agency, in 2018 it ranked fourth in all of Spain with an average gross income of 95,492 euros, only behind La Moraleja (Alcobendas, Madrid), Vallvidrera-Tibidabo i Les Planes (Barcelona) and Somosaguas-Húmera. (Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid).
In addition, its privileged location in the center of the city, as well as the presence of all the large luxury and fashion stores worldwide, place it in the spotlight, especially for Venezuelan buyers, who have given a strong boost to the luxury residential, with the rehabilitation of several buildings and with the purchase of some of the most expensive homes in the capital.
In its barely 5,000 square meters of surface, records have been broken in the luxury residential market, but also in offices, hotels and ‘retail’.
“We will have to get used to buying a ‘singular’ product to reform at €8,000 and €9,000/m2 and in new construction at prices above €14,000/m2,” says Elena Jori.
And it is that the enormous shortage of product for sale plays in their favor. “Salamanca will continue to be the most demanded neighborhood and it will also be the one that monopolizes the highest increases due to the lack of product,” according to Óscar Larrea, whose opinion Luis Valdés shares. “Due to a shortage of new-build homes, and the high existing demand, prices are reaching averages around €16,000/m2, but here it is very important to specify that it is necessary for the product to meet certain essential conditions in terms of its location within the neighborhood, level of finishes and qualities, ‘parking’, ‘amenities’ and services. If you do not meet all the conditions, the price suffers a discount, and the current customer knows this, not everything is valid. Likewise, the penthouses follow another line, and here the price range is very heterogeneous”.
“Another characteristic of the district is the high degree of protection of the existing buildings, especially in the Salamanca and Castellana area, which makes possible renovations extremely difficult,” added Paloma Relinque and Samuel Población from CBRE.
All these factors have contributed to ‘feeding’ the price of housing and rentals in the Salamanca neighborhood and have made its price per residential square meter the highest in the entire municipality, exceeding 5,700 euros at the end of 2020. square meter. In addition, it is the second highest residential rental price, only behind Chamberí, close to 17.5 euros per square meter per month, according to CBRE data.
In their latest study on the neighbourhood, Living Loving Madrid-Salamanca highlights how the district is with the lowest rate of primary residence, only 75%, and highlighting the rate of empty homes, around 16% of the available stock, which On the one hand, the value of the homes in this district is explained as an investment product, and not due to intensive use by the buyer of the same; and on the other, due to the existence of very old houses, without reform, which do not present ideal habitability conditions.
Salamanca has been, and is, the quintessential wealthy neighborhood in Madrid where many would like to live —and where some have managed to do so in the past. However, a century and a half after his birth, only a privileged few can afford it. Today more than ever, living in the Salamanca neighborhood is a luxury.
* The information regarding the most representative buildings in the Salamanca neighborhood has been extracted from the Architecture Guide of the College of Architects of Madrid (COAM).
** The data regarding rental prices in the sections referring to vertical and horizontal segregation have been extracted from ‘The origins of Modern Madrid: El Ensanche Este (1860-1878)’ by Borja Carballo Barral.
*** Data have been obtained from the Continuous Register Statistics and from the INE.