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There is this one mansion that really stands out in Avenida Alvear, not because it’s beauty -although it is absolutely magnificent- but because of its deterioration and it’s huge trees that have grown completely out of proportion. It is known as ex-Palacio Duhau (not to be mistaken by the Palacio with the same name just next doors to this one, which became a Hyatt hotel), and as la residencia Maguire.

From 1880 off Argentina became economically prosperous thanks to the invention of freezers, which made it possible to export the Argentine beef to Europe. It is the emerge of an upper class who became so rich that in France they still have the saying “riche comme un Argentin” (as rich as an Argentine). At one point Argentina was amongst the 5 richest countries in the world. Who can believe that now?

This can be seen in Avenida Alvear, where one mansion or “private hotel” was built next to the other. The first one to be build was this one on the corner of Ave Alvear and Rodriguez Peña when in 1890 the railway engineer Alejandro Hume asked the architect Carlos Ryder to build his home in late Victorian style. All the materials were imported from Scotland.

The official inauguration took place on 1893 with a sort of art exhibition organized by Eduardo Schiaffino, which is said to have be the last step before opening the Museo de Bellas Artes in 1895.

In 1913 Carlos Thays, the most important landscape architect in Argentina ever, designed the gardens, making it the first residency in the country to have an outdoor swimming pool.

In 1920 the mansion was sold to the unmarried brothers (and sisters) Alberto, Maria Faustian and Maria Candelabra Duhau. Thats why it is also known as the Duhau palace. The mansion next doors was owned by Luis Duhau, another brother (who had been minister of agriculture for a short period in 1933). The Duhaus made a few changes to the house, among them a connection between both mansions. After the 3 brothers, Luis became the owner and from him it went to another brothers’ daughter Susana Duhau, who was married to John Walter Maguire, which made the name change into the Maguire residence.

John Maguire was a writer of several books, the most famous being La Puñeza de Oro.

The Maguires had one daughter also called Susana, who was married to Carlos Biocca Lavicolli. Up to today she still lives in the house.

This makes this mansion the only one in the avenida Alvear that still has its original function : its a private home. It has been declared a national monument in 2002 (decreto 1495), together with other residencies in the avenue. Unfortunately the saying “riche come un Argentin” is history. Hardly anyone (not to say nobody) -if not a state or a big company- has enough money to maintain a magnificent house as this one as a private home or private hotel. It may be build to house a big family and to continuously organize parties, but those were long gone times. Now it is mysterious, it looks a bit deteriorated, it seems closed. I absolutely love it. It is my favorite house in the neighborhood. How I would love to visit it! I hope Mrs Maguire can enjoy it for many many years to come (although I had heard that she is “old”, she certainly isn’t : she must be younger then my parents). And I hope that after her, her children will be able to keep it as a private residence.

Meanwhile, I will keep on having lunch in the Palacio Duhau next door, in the shade of the tree of the neighboring Maguire house, imagining how it used to be in those rich times. Not that I have lunch at palacio Duhau (Hyatt hotel) everyday. Still, Hmmmm.