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Category: Business

510. j. rodolfo bernasconi y familia

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

For such a wealthy businessman, little information is available online about Juan Rodolfo Bernasconi. Born in Buenos Aires in 1869, he studied in Switzerland, married María Luisa Pini Leonardi & had four children. Most of his money came from agriculture, especially the successful company Bycla which produced blends of cooking oil:

ByCla aceite combestible, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

As far as my research could ascertain, Bernasconi was not related to Félix Bernasconi of the famous institute founded in Parque Patricios. Then again, there were lots of Bernasconis in Argentina at the time… a very common last name. Most surprising is the interior decoration. Very well-maintained, someone should research the family coat-of-arms:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

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506. ernesto tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Tornquist

Ernesto Tornquist, born in 1842 in Buenos Aires, became one of Argentina’s most successful entrepreneurs. His father, born in Baltimore of German immigrants, represented the city of Bremen in Uruguay. Ernesto’s mother, a porteña, passed away in the yellow fever epidemic of 1871.

The following year Tornquist married his niece & they had a numerous family of 14 children. His brother-in-law first introduced Ernesto to management, & he eventually acquired enough shares & confidence to inherit the company. It provided the capital necessary to open a sugar refinery in Rosario, the Bieckert brewery, a ceramic manufacturing plant, metalworking facility… even a margarine factory. Diversity seemed to be Tornquist’s strong point, & his fortune grew accordingly.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist

A close friendship with both Julio Argentino Roca & Carlos Pellegrini likely helped Tornquist influence political decisions… or at least know what would happen before anyone else. Some historians have hinted that he may have even inspired Roca to take on the Conquista del Desierto in order to acquire land. What is certain is that after the removal of indigenous tribes, Tornquist bought thousands of hectares of confiscated land & established colonies for German immigrants. This large area just north of Bahía Blanca still bears his name.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist, lion

Tornquist built several visible reminders of his wealth in Buenos Aires, most notably the Plaza Hotel—today the Marriott—on Plaza San Martín. In the heart of the banking district, Alejandro Bustillo designed the Banco Tornquist in 1928. As of 2000, Banco Tornquist had been absorbed by Banco Santander Río & the building has remained closed to the public since then. Plans to house the yearly interior design fair (Casa FOA) there in 2013 will provide a unique opportunity to view the bank’s interior. Ornamental figures above the entrance were sculpted by Troiano Troiani.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, La City, Banco Tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, La City, Banco Tornquist

Tornquist passed away in 1908 in Buenos Aires. His remains—along with those of his wife—were transferred in 1992 to the city which bears his name, leaving only a dusty reminder in Recoleta Cemetery of one of Argentina’s biggest names in business.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Tornquist

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502. juan berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Between 1869 & 1871, Buenos Aires endured two disastrous epidemics: first, cholera, that left 9,000 dead & second, yellow fever, which claimed 14,000 victims. The city government put into practice new sanitation practices, including the removal of tanneries & slaughterhouses from residential areas. Business owners received big tax breaks if they agreed to relocate.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Due to those incentives, Juan Bautista Berisso —an Genovese immigrant born in 1834— purchased 28 hectares in Ensenada, near the future location of La Plata. He established a successful tannery & in following years acquired a distillery, a vegetable oil factory, dock facilities & a number of cattle ranches.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Berisso passed away in 1893 & is buried in an extraordinary family plot rarely seen by tourists because of its somewhat hidden location. Beautiful works by Italian sculptor Alessandro Biggi decorate the mausoleum, with Chronos (Father Time) on the left, a female angel with an anchor on the right & two lions guarding the entrance:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

In La Plata, another branch of the Berisso family built the largest mausoleum in the cemetery, currently abandoned:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

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496. familia david costaguta

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

Local entrepreneur David Costaguta made most of his fortune from the manufacture & sale of textiles between Argentina & Europe at the end of the 19th century. Like most nouveau riche in Buenos Aires at that time, Costaguta decided to use his wealth to play around in the real estate market. But where to buy??

Plaza Lavalle underwent drastic change just as Costaguta looked to develop. The lot occupied today by the Teatro Colón originally held a train station… the terminus for the first railway built in the nation. In 1890 the station moved further west to Once, tracks were removed & the new opera house built in the same spot. Army barracks were likewise demolished to make room for a new Supreme Court (Tribunales).

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta bought the lot next to Tribunales & hired French architect Alfred Massüe to design a four-story building destined for both business & residential use. Work finished in 1907, & the Palacio Costaguta became another focal point for the plaza. Its tower & dome are still one of the most recognized pieces of Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires… even though a large portion of the building was demolished in 1988 & replaced with a rather horrific, glass office tower. Fortunately the Banco Fotográfico Digital run by the National Library contains a photo of Massüe’s masterpiece before modification:

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta’s tomb supposedly dates from 1907, but the architect responsible is unknown. The statue of a woman in mourning & two back relief panels (both unsigned!) are wonderful works of art. Hopefully more information will come to light in the future about the artists involved.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

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488. brenna

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Brenna

One year before Recoleta Cemetery opened, a flour mill & its corresponding shop for baked goods began operation in 1821 at the intersection of Rivadavia & Rodríguez Peña. Almost four decades later, it became known as the Confitería del Molino. The business was acquired in 1886 by Gaetano Brenna who had a clear vision of making the best sweets in Buenos Aires.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Brenna

Part of Brenna’s business plan included expanding his facilities. Purchasing two buildings & a warehouse at the intersection of Callao & Rivadavia, Brenna hired immigrant Italian architect Francisco Gianotti to join the three structures & build up, up, up. Gianotti wasted no time during the six years he had been in Argentina, already having built several apartment buildings & just completing the Galería Güemes the previous year. He was definitely one of the star architects of the moment. Brenna made Gianotti promise not to interrupt normal, day-to-day business of the confitería & the results were spectacular.

Buenos Aires, Confitería del Molino, Francisco Gianotti

Given its location at one of the most important intersections in the city center & adjacent to Congress, the Confitería del Molino quickly became the success Brenna had envisioned 20 years earlier. Politicians, tango celebrities like Tita Merello, foreign dignitaries, literally everyone hung out there.

Unfortunately, business began to decline in the 1950’s & each coming decade brought new challenges for the Brenna family. Shortly after filming a scene for the Alan Parker version of “Evita” plus a video for the Madonna release “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the Confitería del Molino closed its doors forever in January 1997. The building sat disintegrating for decades, but restoration plans are almost complete in 2020. One day soon, we may be able to enjoy a coffee & pastry here just like porteños from bygone days.

Buenos Aires, Confitería del Molino, Francisco Gianotti, Art Nouveau

Art lovers should take a peek inside the tomb for one of the finest mosaics in the cemetery:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Brenna

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

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