A visit to this impressive building provides an insight into the historical events of the country during the mid nineteenth century.
The City of Gualeguaychú
is located a few kilometers from Concepción del Uruguay and nearby Palacio San José, General Justo José de Urquiza’s manor. In a sparsely populated area, the leader, or caudillo
from the province of Entre Ríos lived with his family in much the same luxurious style as in European courts, in a mansion which took almost a decade to be completed.
As we approached this magnificent building, the symmetrical towers at each end immediately caught our attention. Its architecture could be deemed Italianesque, with Spanish colonial touches. Its classical friezes and galleries with Tuscan columns gave us a hint of what we would be seeing.
We joined a guided tour of the museum and its ample courtyards, built to separate the different areas of this enormous manor house. All the rooms, for family or protocol use, have been preserved in their original state.
Family life centered around the honor courtyard to which only illustrious guests gained access. Dignitaries such as President Domingo F. Sarmiento and other well-known personalities spent the night there during the political meetings hosted by Urquiza.
When we entered the room of mirrors, we stood in awe of the ceiling, reflecting everything that was happening below. One hundred pieces of French glass with imported wooden frames embedded in the ceiling were a clear indication of the grand rooms in which Urquiza received his visitors.
When we toured the family chambers we were stunned by the well preserved pieces of furniture of this glorious time. The solemn ensemble and décor include outstanding noble woodwork and exquisite design. The tools of his work as business and statesman can still be seen in the general’s study.
We then entered the small chapel with its gold plated cedar altar and a statue of Saint Joseph and the Christ Child. We delighted in its frescoes and Carrara marble baptismal font, a replica of one found at the Vatican.
The park surrounding this stately mansion is populated by trees planted during Urquiza’s time. Marble statues, fountains, bird-houses and even an artificial lake
tell us how much they enjoyed being outdoors. We learned that in these days of splendor a steam boat navigated the lake.
The palace witnessed some of the most important national political events. General Urquiza was a staunch supporter of federalism and participated in the national and institutional organization of the country. He was governor of the Province of Entre Ríos and later President of The Argentine Confederation.
Palacio San José was declared a National Historic Monument in 1935 due to its cultural and artistic value both of which seemed to come to life during our visit.
Opening hours: Information provided at the tourism office in any nearby city.
How to get here: From Gualeguaychú: take National Route 14 up to Concepción del Uruguay, then Route 30 towards Caseros for 23 km.
Bear in mind: To fully understand the history of the site we highly recommend the specialized guide service of Palacio San José.