The medieval splendour of Pontevedra caused the city to grow beyond its walls. These streets have evolved over time to form part, today, of the Ensanche, where you can admire some buildings that thanks to their design, stand out from the rest, or interesting corners that hold great stories.
From the Plaza de la Peregrina we arrive at Calle de la Oliva, a street that has a great commercial character that dates back to the 70s, a time when a large number of commercial establishments and galleries were opened. The Galerías de la Oliva were inaugurated in 1961. Five years later they were extended to connect with Gutiérrez Mellado Street. Of all the buildings on Calle de la Oliva, the Post Office, designed by the architect Carlos Gato and completed between 1925 and 1926, is particularly noteworthy. Inspired by the buildings of Northern Europe, it seeks a resemblance to the Flemish Renaissance. In the decoration of the central hall, oil painting in general and in imitation bronze, gilding, mosaic, ceramics and artistic glasswork were used. The coloured glazed vault has as a central element the coat of arms of the city of Pontevedra. Another coat of arms in stone of the city crowns the facade of the building, rehabilitated in 2003. On the outside we can see an olive tree that honours the name of the street.
Calle de la Oliva leads to the Plaza de San José, where two buildings stand out. The first of these, the Café Moderno, is an early 20th century building of eclectic architecture commissioned by Bernardo Martínez Bautista, an emigrant who made his fortune in Cuba. It was initially designed as a residential building and the Café Moderno was located on the ground floor. The granite masonry, cast iron and woodwork, are the protagonists of the design of this building. In its day it was famous for the gatherings with the most outstanding intellectuals of the historical Galicianism such as Castelao, Bóveda or Cabanillas, and even García Lorca himself. It preserves interesting paintings and works of outstanding Galician artists of the first half of the 20th century, such as Monteserín, Pintos Fonseca, Carlos Sobrino or Laxeiro. In 2000 it was restored by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Nowadays it is one of the centres that the social work Afundación has in the city.
In the square of San José a sculptural set rmade in 2006 recreates one of the cafe’s gatherings. The bronze sculptures represent the violinist Manuel Quiroga from Pontevedra standing in front of a group composed of Carlos Casares, also standing, and seated, Ramón Cabanillas, Castelao, Valentín Paz Andrade and Alexandre Bóveda. It is the work of the sculptor Cesar Lombera, also the author of the sculpture of Valle Inclán in Méndez Núñez square. Another outstanding building in the square is the Auditorio Sede de Afundación, recently remodelled by the architect from Pontevedra, Cesar Portela. Presiding over the facade of the building is a bronze sculpture of Teucro, the mythical founder of the city of Pontevedra, 6 metres high and weighing 2,000 kilos.
Sculptural ensemble recreating a gathering at Café Moderno
From this square, after continuing along Marqués de Riestra street, Villa Pilar appears, located in front of the Vicenti gardens. This work was commissioned by Manuel Martínez Bautista, brother of the promoter of the construction of the Café Moderno. He also emigrated to Cuba like his brother, and later to New York. The building was inaugurated in 1905, it will pass to his nephew Ramiro Trapote and this in turn to his niece Pilar. It is believed that the design of the building, where the Carrara marble staircase and the noble woods of its interior stand out, is the work of a Cuban architect.
A little further away from these surroundings, on the Paseo de Colón is the Casa de los Fonseca, a curious composition commissioned by Eulogio Fonseca, whose construction was completed in 1910. It originally housed an important Masonic lodge. This building was projected imitating a classic temple, in the portico there are eight Tuscan Roman columns and in the facade a great triangular pediment, in whose inferior vertexes we find statues of griffins, winged animals, symbolically significant for their dominion of the Earth and the Sky, with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. For some cultures they symbolize guardians. On the pediment there is a semicircular window, a clear reference to the Eye of Providence, better known as the All-Seeing Eye, a Masonic symbol. It was renovated between 1993 and 1996, and currently houses the Provincial Historical Archive.