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History of an old house

Architecture of the historic centre of Lima brings together a series of styles, especially baroque and neoclassical, with superimpositions and additions, which, over more than four and a half centuries, have given it a singular originality. As the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru and one of the most important cities in “América Hispana” (Hispanic America), the so-called Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings) was at the forefront of styles and fashions, which meant that the buildings were constantly being modified or repaired to adapt to the new requirements and needs of society of Lima; to this is added an evolution due to the intense seismic activity that on several circumstances destroyed or left numerous buildings and monuments in a critical state.

The first known record of the estate as such is from 1685, as recorded in a deed imposing a census on it; Luis César de Escarzola, a resident of our city, was the owner of this tax. In 1687, there was an earthquake that destroyed temples and adobe houses. By 1699, this property was part of the properties of Gaspar Fernández de Montejo.

This first occupation is evidenced and supported by the ceramic that has been identified in the different exploratory units in an isolated form and which is intact on the floors of one of the archaeological exploration units.

In the same 17th century, a second occupation has been detected, represented by a foundation that runs parallel to the Jirón Azángaro and that crosses the main courtyard in the centre. Already in the 18th century, are documented several transactions of the property, which must have meant several modifications in its appearance.

In 1704, the house was sold to General Blas de Ayesa, who would later inherit the property from his daughters. On 30 December 1763, Manuel Gallegos Dávalos, Count of the Dávalos House bought the house from Ignes and Josefa de Ayesa; in the sales document an appraisal of the property is attached and in it we find the oldest and most succinct description of the house in which the boundaries are established: the left boundary with the Palacio Torre Tagle and the right boundary with the congregation of the O (this indicates that the property at that time did not reach the corner with Beytia Street).

The Count Dávalos, who died on 21 December 1776, according to the valuation of the property at the time, “reedificó la casa mejorando sus habitaciones” (rebuilt the house, improving its rooms) and it can be affirmed that it was the Count who executes the extension work up to the corner and the remodelling of the house. After the death of the Count, he house is sold by the Countess Dávalos o the Caja General de Comunidades de Indios (General Fund of Indian Communities), to establish in it the Superintendencia General de Real Hacienda (General Superintendence of the Royal Treasury).

From 1821, the property passed into the hands of the Rávago family, until 1878, Pedro de la Puente y Rávago sold the house to Manuel Elguera. On 7 June 1882, Manuel Elguera left the property to his niece Natividad Montero de Sand. In 1886, the house was sold to Agustín Tello, but by a pact of resale, the property returned to its previous owner, who on 15 January 1897 sold it to Melchora Barrera, widow of Aspíllaga. It is the widow of Aspíllaga who requested the inscription of the estate in the register of immovable property and attached the corresponding valuation – in it already it is recorded its current extension of 1431 m2 – giving it the name by which this republican property became known in the 20th century. The house belongs to the Aspíllaga family until 1954, when the Aspíllaga Anderson estate sold the property to the State for use as part of the administrative headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Architectural evolution

The first stage of this house must have corresponded to the first half of the 18th century; its foundations was found in the centre of the main courtyard and had a totally different layout to the present one: the level of the house in the first half of the 18th century was filled in with the rubble from the collapse after the earthquake of 1746 and gave way to the new layout of the main courtyard and therefore of the house.

In the second stage, the house was rebuilt, as appears in the deed of sale of 3 June 1784, which states that the Count of the Casa Dávalos (who died in 1776) «reedifica la casa mejorando sus habitaciones» (rebuilt the house, improving its rooms). The rebuilt house is the one described in the valuation made that same year. It is from this date that it is possible to speak with certainty of the existence of a first courtyard with entrance hall and commercial rooms towards Beytia and San Pedro streets, which corresponds to a late manor house layout, with baroque proportions.

A third stage take place at the end of the 19th century, in which the building is rebuilt on the previous floor plan, with a brick structural base and whose layout and arrangement of openings (except for minor alterations) is the one that remains to this day; the masonry staircase was rebuilt, the rooms in the first courtyard were modified, the pine columns were placed, etc. At this time, the building is remodelled without the box balconies, as their prohibition came into force in 1870.

When the Aspíllaga family acquired the property in 1897, they did so together with the plot behind it, which gave the house the total area of 1431 m2 that it has today. From that moment on, the façades were aligned and remodelled, with a typical neo-Renaissance style from the end of the 19th century, with some elements of modernist tendencies (art nouveau, art deco). The partition walls of quincha with split cane that are present in the walls of the second courtyard and in the area corresponding to the stairwell, as well as the pine wood structure, are characteristic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when this last major remodelling of the property took place.


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