Palacio Anchorena
Buenos Aires Tours

Buenos Aires walking tour presents the Anchorena Palace (these days known as Palacio San Martin) - one of city’s greatest architectural sights

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       Anchorena Palace is one of the greatest architectural sights in Buenos Aires. It was built between 1905 and 1909 at the request of Mercedes Castellanos Anchorena – head of one of the most influential and richest families in Argentina.

      To put it into the right perspective, in Argentina the name Anchorena evokes the wealth and power similar to such legendary persons like Rockefeller and Morgan in United States, Krupp in Germany or Rothschild in France and England.

The Anchorena dynasty was funded by Juan Esteban Anchorena who in 1751 left the Spanish motherland for Buenos Aires.

Thanks to his entrepreneurial talents, ingenuity and favorable trade conditions between South American provinces and Europe, the young Anchorena quickly amassed a huge fortune (sadly – partially from the slave trade).

       Wealth allowed him to marry Romana Josefa Lopez de Anaya - a beautiful woman of noble origins from the River Plate family “in financial difficulties”. Combination of the new money and an old aristocratic blood was more than enough not only to revive the lost splendor of his wife’s past but also to bring it to the new heights. 

In 1863 Mercedes Castellanos married Nicholas Hugo Anchorena – a grandson of Juan Esteban Anchorena. During her time the Anchorena family reached the peak of their prosperity, power and influence - the new dynasty had no equals in Argentina!

    To the benefit of the family it is worth to mention that throughout her life, Mercedes Anchorena was a determined promoter of charities and unfaltering supporter of church providing enormous amount of money for the causes, largely exceeding what was customary at that time.

She funded constructions of many new churches (see Basilica of the Holy Sacrament) . For her generosity, Mercedes Anchorena received the honorary titles of Papal Countess and The Lady of the Golden Rose.

Maria Luisa de las Mercedes Castellanos (Note: This is the original size picture).

Photo is the courtesy of the

Out of her eleven children only five survived. One of them, Aaron Anchorena became known for his love for nature. You can read more about his Patagonia adventures by selecting: Isla Victoria Bariloche

Palacio Anchorena at the beginning of 19th century (Note: This is the original size picture).

Photo is the courtesy of the 

     The Anchorena Palace is a work of one of the most respected architects of those days - Alejandro Christophersen. Architecturally it is a beautiful adaptation of the 18th century French neo-classicism to the Argentinean environment refined by the local style and preferences.

Designed for Mercedes and her two sons Aaron and Emilio it is a unique complex of three private residences encircling a large central patio. While the floor plans of these residences are harmonized to ensure some kind of symmetry of the complex, interior designs and features of each mansion are different.

The main oval form courtyard is separated from the Arenales street by a monumental triumphal arch. It opens on the richly decorated façade of the common part of the complex. Doric columns support upper levels mansards finished with curved lines roof and two domes. Generous marble stairs splendidly ornamented by iron balustrade lead to the representative first floor.

Anchorena Palace - view from the Calle Arenales

Beautiful ironwork seen from the Calle Basavilbaso 

Anchorena Palace - view from the Calle Basavilbaso 

     Attached to the palace is the Winter Garden (facing the Basavilbaso street) - a masterpiece from the local ironwork workshops.

The internal plan of the palace reflected the usual functionality at that time. On the ground floor each pavilion had warehousing facilities and rooms for male service personnel. The first floor had representative functions and included spacious staircase hall and sumptuous reception area for frequent social gatherings. This level in each pavilion was the most luxurious – finished with noble materials, high quality workmanship and richly decorated with sculptures and paintings by European and local masters.

     The Great Hall located in the pavilion on the intersection of Arenales and Basavilbaso streets includes an upper gallery supported by the circle of columns illuminated by cleverly designed skylights. Equally famous was the Golden Hall in Mercedes’ pavilion – with French and English furnishing, tapestry, large collection of oriental porcelain and numerous objects of art. If the spirit of “Belle Époque” was present in Buenos Aires, certainly it was here at the first floor of the Anchorena Palace..

The second floor housed private rooms while female servants occupied attics together with laundry rooms and clothing area. BTW – at the peak of the family glory the Palacio Anchorena employed staggering number of 150 servants.

      The Great Depression in 1930s left Anchorenas almost penniless. In 1936 the family mansion was acquired by the state to host the Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently changing the name to Palacio San Martin. Unfortunately “in the middle of that process” the major part of the palace complex - (the one facing Juncal street) was demolished to make room for “more modern” buildings (it is hard to believe, but yes, it happened!).

     During the last decade of the 20th century the state offices were moved to the new building (next to the Palacio San Martin at the corner of Calle Arenales and Esmeralda). The new modern style “steel & glass” building designed by architects Carlos Rajlin, Natán Aizanstat, Carlos Dodero and Cristina Levinton adhere to some extent to the monumental work of Christophersen.

The roof has characteristic curvature of the old palace, but the most impressive is probably the “full-size” reflection of the old Anchorena Palace in the glassy walls of the new building. After the relocation of offices across the street, the Palacio San Martin is used as the Ceremonial Headquarters for the Foreign Ministry.

Main entry with the triumphal Arch from the Calle Arenales 

View of the old Anchorena Palace with the "all-glass" new seat of the Foreign Ministry in the background.

Anchorena Palace - view from the oval courtyard

    The good news is that there are guided tours of the Palacio San Martin (in these rare moments not interfering with activities of the Foreign Ministry) so there is some chance to see the palace from the inside. The palace houses works of Argentinean artists of the 20th century like Antonio Berni, Pablo Curatella Manes, Roberto Matta, Lino Enea Spilimbergo and others. It also contains an Art Gallery with the collection of Pre-Columbian Art including pottery, stone and metal work. You will also find there a large library specialized in international law and history of international relations.

 Anchorena Palace - view from the Calle Emeralda, the palace is visibly "cut" in half during the demolishing process

What a beauty - Reflection of the old Anchorena Palace in the new building of the Foreign Ministry... 

Free Buenos Aires Attractions Tours Pictures: 3D-view of the Anchorena Palace (San Martin Palace) in its current form. 
Courtesy of the Buenos Aires Tourism Office 

      I hope you enjoyed this visit to the former Anchorena Palace offered by Free Buenos Aires Attractions Tours Pictures.

Now there is time to move to the opposite side of the Plaza San Martin to see one of them most beautiful churches in Buenos Aires - Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament.

And then next to it we will have the chance to see the engineering marvel of the 1930's - Edificio Kavanagh.

We will end the Plaza San Martin walking tour next to the English Tower located on the Air Force Square. OK, so let's go :-)

Best of Buenos Aires-English Tower (page 6) 

Or, you can go back to: 

Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament  (page 4) 

     The beauty of this walking tour is that you can alter the itinerary at any time to see Buenos Aires attractions at your will and pace. 

To start the Buenos Aires Walking Tour from the overview of the of the Plaza San Martin, see maps, learn the history of this famous place, click on the lleft picture or select the following link: 
San Martin Plaza Walking Tours  (page 1) 

To find out who was General José de San Martin and see the imposing monument glorifying his South-American achievements please click on the left picture or select the following link: 
Monument to General Jose de San Martin    (page 2)

To visit the most beautiful church in Buenos Aires - the Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament, church intended to be a “Tabernacle” of the city, the place of prayer and reconciliation, an oasis of silence and peace - please click on the left picture or select the link:
Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament  (page 4) 

    To learn the story behind the construction of the Kavanagh Building (love, betrayal and "sweet revenge" by red-hair Irish girl Corina), see the pictures of this engineering marvel from the beginning of the 20th century, please click the left picture or select the link: 
Kavanagh Building  (page 5) 

    To see the gift of British residents of Buenos Aires offered to the city for the celebration of the centenary of the Revolution of May let's walk towards the English Tower located across the street from the Plaza San Martin. Please click on the left picture of select the following link: 
Best of Buenos Aires-English Tower (page 6) 

Not sure yet where to go and what to see in Argentina? You may find help selecting: Tourist Destinations in Argentina 

However if you are falling in love with Buenos Aires (I do not blame you, it happened to me) then please select:  Buenos Aires Walking Tours 

If you want to prepare yourself for vacation in Argentina then please select: Argentina Travel Tips 

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