A rare example of an 18th-century dwelling in São Paulo, the mansion ("solar") owned by Maria Domitila de Castro Canto e Melo, the Marquess of Santos, between 1834 and 1867 is one of city's top cultural attractions. The most famous and politically influential mistress of Emperor D. Pedro I, who proclaimed Brazil independent from Portugal in 1822, also lived for seven years at another solar in the São Cristóvão district in Rio de Janeiro - and which, after restored, will house a Fashion Museum.
The São Paulo solar is part of Museu da Cidade de São Paulo, comprising historic sites which represent important cycles of the city's history. Under restoration for three years, Solar da Marquesa de Santos reopened in November 2011, on the same day as next-door Beco do Pinto and Casa da Imagem. To the right of the solar is Pateo do Collegio, with nearly 450 years of history.
Though there are no documents which can pinpoint the date Solar da Marquesa de Santos was built, records indicate that it originated from the joining of two 18th-century constructions on Rua do Carmo, now Rua Roberto Simonsen. After the marquess purchased the house, it became known as Palacete do Carmo.
The property was used as an office by The São Paulo Gaz Company, to which it belonged in the early 20th century. The mansion had suffered many architectural interventions since then which had altered its characteristics.
Research carried out for restoration purposes could not recover any specific stage of the property's existence. The restorations which brought it to its pristine current state focused on preserving elements from the various construction phases it underwent through the centuries. Parts of the original wall construction have been left exposed.
Enjoy the exhibits on the spacious ground floor, ranging from a sedan chair to posters featuring reproductions of old São Paulo classified ads, such as one advertising two goats, "bem iguaes" - "quite alike", in outdated Brazilian Portuguese spelling - which the seller said were just right for "pulling a kid's cart".
Though many of the texts on display are available in Portuguese only, the museum has bilingual docents (Portuguese/English and Portuguese/Spanish).
Besides objects belonging to the marquess, such as her bed and her divan, the second floor also features some exhibits about São Paulo history. The doors, hardwood floors and balustrades are an aesthetic experience in themselves.
To visitors who understand Portuguese, one of the most interesting items on display might be the printed text of a letter from the Emperor to the Marquess in which he shares candid details about one of her daughter's recovery from a malady, expresses his admiration for her elegance, and signs off as a "son, friend and loyal lover", with other protestations of affection.
Hours: Tue-Sun 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rua Roberto Simonsen 160
São Paulo - SP