Portugal’s most famous avenue in days gone by

news: Portugal’s most famous avenue in days gone by

BEFORE LISBON’S 1755 earthquake, the area occupied by Avenida da Liberdade today was nothing more than a dangerous and overgrown open ditch filled with rubbish.

But the grandiose plans of the Marquês de Pombal to rebuild the city included a project (1764-1771) to create a public walkway and park, such as the ones that already existed in other major European capitals of the time – for example, the Vauxhall Gardens in London.

• The present-day Marquês de Pombal roundabout
• The present-day Marquês de Pombal roundabout

Originally intended for the aristocracy, the enclosed fee-paying gardens, which began at Praça dos Restauradores and ended where present-day Parque Mayer is situated, became a popular walkway for Queen Dona Maria II and her husband, the German prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg Kohary.

Common citizens were only allowed into the gardens on Sundays, free of charge, to enjoy entertainment and fairs. But it wasn’t until the liberal governments of the 19th century that the gardens caught the public’s imagination. Pressures to extend the city northwards, in the second half of the 19th century, led to the gardens being closed down. In its place, an elegant Parisian-style Boulevard was designed to reach the present-day Marquês de Pombal.

Work began in 1879, under the guidance of the then Mayor, Rosa Aráujo, and architect, José Luís Monteiro, and the central avenue was planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Public walkways with benches, refreshment kiosks and water features were all incorporated.

Avenida da Liberdade was inaugurated in 1886 for the marriage of Dom Carlos I and Dona Amélia and included gas lamp lighting, which was revolutionary at the time. Mansions sprung up along the avenida, including Lambertini (1900), Mayer (1902), Tivoli Cinema (1924), the Hotel Vitória (1936) and Diário de Notícias (1942).