Avenida de 9 de julio is known as the widest avenue in the world. When you are driving through it, and traffic is slow, your eyes are automatically drawn to the obelisk, and then upwards to the huge billboards on the top of the buildings.
And then you might see it, well hidden between the buildings : the little house on top of one of the high buildings. Before you could have a good look at it, it has disappeared again, and the next time you drive through the avenue you look for it again, and you might not find it. But when you do, you realize it isn’t really little. It is actually a big house.
What is it? What is it doing there? How did it get there? Is someone living there? One can only be surprised and amazed when he sees it.
And the story goes like this. There was this boy, 15 year old, an immigrant from Valencia, called Rafael Díaz, who worked so hard in a merceria (haberdashy shop) in Chacabuco street, that one day his boss told him that he has already earned a house in heaven.
That’s the day that he began to dream of his house in heaven, only he wanted to have it sooner, during his life on earth.
Later on, in the twenties, he started a furniture business which he called ‘Muebles Díaz’, aiming at the fast growing middle class. He sold furniture from out of the shop, but also out of a catalogue, throughout the country. By then the idea of a house in the sky had become an obsession : he wanted to have a 10 story building to house his furniture store, with on top of that, a house in Normandy style, as he has seen in Mar del Plata.
In 1927 his dream came true. They inaugurated ‘Meubles Díaz’ which later became one of the most important furniture stores in town. On each floor he showed a different style of furniture, and through the oval open space which connected the 10 floors Mr Díaz could oversee his whole shop, and the people working for him.
As Mr Díaz lived out of town, in Banfield, he had lunch and his daily siesta in his house on the roof where, on a clear day, he could actually see the coast of Uruguay. But he could also see how they build and later inaugurated avenida 9 de julio, and how they constructed the obelisk in 1936; none of that was there when he build his house. At first his house was hidden, and was his alone.
Later on he realized that having a house on top of the building, would be a great form of publicity. His furniture store became known as the store with the house on top. The house made it to the post cards of those days.
With the money he earned from selling furniture, he bought other buildings, hotels, cinemas, theaters and hotels in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, and he started up a radio station LOK Muebles Diaz (later radio Rivadavia).
Don Rafael Diaz died in 1968, his sons took over the company, which they sold in the ’70. The building was remodeled to become offices, but the house remained empty… and one of the many curiosities in the city.
NB I had forgotten this house completely, but one of my fellow students, Pablo Montero, came up with this photo which I absolutely loved. So the honors of the beautiful picture go to him!