Lagos’ historic railway station sold to English art lover

By Roger Green [email protected]

The old railway station in Lagos, a protected building regarded as an important part of Portugal’s patrimony, has been sold to an Englishman and will become an art gallery and coffee venue.

The buyer is a businessman currently living in Dubai, and he plans to start the conversion of the interior of the building in August or September this year.

The purchase price of the building, which was advertised at more than half-a-million euros, has not been disclosed.

Inaugurated in 1922, the station, set in 600m2 of land behind the town’s marina, is noted for its exquisite tile panels from the Sacavém factory, and because of its status the exterior cannot be altered.

The Sacavém factory was established in 1856 by Manuel Joaquim Afonso and over the years produced a wide range of ceramic items such as tableware, glazed tiles (azulejos) mosaics and toilet bowls. Much of the early ware has collectors’ value.

After going into liquidation in 1994, it became a living museum where visitors can see ceramics being made and view more than 5,000 porcelain items on display.

In 2002, it won the Micheletti Award for the best European museum in the category of Industrial Patrimony.

The beautifully glazed tiles adorning the outer walls of the Lagos station, in green, ochre and white, designed in the Art Nouveau style, are the main reason for the desirability of the building for a buyer with the imagination and funds to retain its beauty and character for any future project.

Since the station closed in 2006, to make way for the new station 200 metres away as part of a major revitalisation programme for the area, it had become rundown and suffered from vandalism including graffiti, smashed windows and squatters.

Fortunately, the local authority implemented measures to prevent the situation getting worse.

Martiniano dos Reis of Garvetur Real Estate Agency in Lagos said: “We are delighted that the building has been bought by somebody with a genuine desire to maintain its architectural quality and charm. The building has very strong historical interest and is classified by the Portuguese Government as one of the country’s protected buildings, so only the interior can be modified. It is the perfect building for use as an art gallery.”

From its beginning the station was used as passenger transport as well as goods, especially canned fish and other local produce.

Before the construction of Faro Airport in 1965, it served as a means of transport for Portuguese and foreign holidaymakers, who brought increased trade to the town.

The first rail link in the Algarve joined Beja to Faro and opened in February 1881, and after some delays the connection from those stations to Lagos was achieved in March 1899.

The year 1922 witnessed the inauguration of both Portimão and Lagos railway stations.

In Lagos, it was celebrated in grand fashion to mark the improved access to the area and the beginning of a new era of economic trade.

It has always been hoped that the old railway station would become a museum which would stand as a landmark journey between the past and the present day life in the town.

The project envisaged by the new owner falls happily within those parameters.