Rio Panorama – 1922


There’s a cool panorama in the December 9, 1922 edition of Revista da Semana, showing all the important aspects of Rio de Janeiro at the time. The viewpoint is the tower of the Meteorological Observatory (old Calabouço fort).

Each photo here can be enlarged with a click, including the two page spread as a whole, at the bottom. Additionally, I’ll add another panorama of sorts, this time of Rio’s mountain range from a February 23, 1924 edition of the magazine.




City Panorama – 1922

The circular panorama of Rio de Janeiro, which we’ll reproduce on these pages, is the most important photographic work of its kind up to now, registered in Brazil’s illustrated press and which the editor of photographs of Revista da Semana obtained from the upper platform of Calabouço’s large tower, spinning the camera around the highest building of the city. Our prints, systematically prepared, reproduce the entire panorama of Rio de Janeiro, with the following noted:

1. The old monastery of São Bento. 2. Cobras island, with the metallic naval bridge highlighted among the two numbers. 3. Partial aspect of the Mercado. 4. The Statistics pavilion of the Commemorative Exposition of Independence. 5. The graceful Hunting and Fishing pavilion, distinguished by the Dom João VI galleon in the small bay. 6. The Fiscal island, where one finds the Naval Museum. 7 – 8. The Brazilian battleships Minas Geraes and São Paulo. 9. The tip of Armação, in Niterói. 10. The northern extremity of the shot rock from the landfill at the tip of Calabouço, which projects itself over the sea coupled by the extremely vast area. 11. View of Niterói. 12. Boa Viagem island. 13 – 14. Pico and Santa Cruz forts. 15. Villegaignon island. 16. The shot rock from the landfill of Santa Luzia beach. 17. The extensive conquered area of the sea, with the land taken from Castelo hill. 18. The Exposition’s picturesque restaurant. 19. The Cervejaria Antartica pavillion. 20 – 21. The Lage and São João forts. 22 – 23. Sugarloaf and Urca hill, connected by the famous aerial path.

24. Glória’s beautiful knoll, distinguished by the grand building of the Glória Hotel on the oriental flank. 25. Part of the Exposition’s compound, where, from left to right, the Brahma, Hanseatica and General Electric breweries can be found. 26. Partial aspect of the Amusement Park. 27. The facade of the Amusement Park, a project and construction of professor Sr. Morales de los Rios. 28. Gávea hill. 29. Corcovado, in whose summit the Christ the Redeemer monument is being built. 30. General view of Santa Teresa. 31 – 32. Tijuca and Papagaio Peak. 33. The heavy dome of the Palácio das Festas. 34. The Santa Casa da Misericórdia. 35. The Monroe pavilion, where one can find the offices of the Commemorative Exposition. 36. The back part of the National Library. 37. Castelo hill’s western subdivision. 39. The Palácio dos Estados, seeing the back part of the tower of jewels. 40. The main door and the facade of the Mercado, adapted for the Exposition’s installations. 41. The only tower of the Cathedral and the two colonial towers of the Carmo Church. 42. The towers of the Candelaria church, where one finds the Meteorological Observatory and which served as an axis point for this wide panorama.

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Geological Panorama – 1924



From left to right: Ponte de Guaratiba, Pico da Cabeça de Boi, Ilhas Cagarras, Gávea, Morro dos Dois Irmãos, Pico de Papagaio, Tijuca, (Can’t read it), Corcovado, Morro dos Cabritos, (Can’t read it), Ponta de Copacabana, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana Palace, Babilônia, Morro do Leme, Pão de Açúcar.

Obviously, there are a lot more than what is listed. For anyone interested in a great documentary series on the geography of Rio (season 1) and Brazil (season 2), look for Sobre Rochas (the latter season can be found on Daily Motion).


Documentary Series – Rio Por Eles

The documentary series Rio Por Eles is a different kind of historical and sentimental revival of the city of Rio. In it, viewers will discover how foreign documentarists, reporters and TV broadcasting station saw the city throughout the 20th century. It’s a mostly black & white record of Rio through the eyes of foreigners in different languages.

Directed and scripted by Ernesto Rodrigues, the series is the result of a two year research project through hundreds of foreign sources, in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Nine reporters from O Globo will take the viewer through 43 characteristic locations which contextualize more than 200 excerpts from 127 films and televised reports.

The series consists of five 30-minute episodes, which I’ve put in order below: the transformation of the landscape, the political happenings, the interpretation of Brazilian culture, the style & behavior, and finally the tragedies & disasters shown abroad.

Santa Luzia – 1910

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(click to enlarge)

An interesting set of photos, especially the bottom one with people hanging from ropes,  at the old Santa Luzia beach (located between today’s Santos Dumont airport and Praça XV). In 1905, the Passos reform mandated a ‘garage’ for row boats to be built there, taking away a little of its shine. In 1922, with the destruction of the Castelo hill, the beach was again altered but one could still swim there. By the 30s, work began on Santos Dumont and the beach was no more.


The reason people are hanging from ropes, I believe, is due to it possibly not being shallow enough and because there was apparently a wall between them and land, as can be seen just above, in an image from the Cidade Esportiva blog. The beach, as can be seen, was next to the chruch of the same name. Here’s an additional photo from a little further down the coast, also from 1910. And, of course, prior to the 1900s, it looked a lot better.

Rio’s Last Lagoon



“The area around Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon was initially inhabited by the Tamoio indians, who called it one of three names: Praguá (which means “fish cove”), Sacopenapã (“road of herons”) and Capôpenypau (“lagoon of shallow roots”). With the arrival of the Portuguese colonizers, the governor and Captain-General of the Rio de Janeiro Captaincy, António Salema, intended to install a sugarcane mill on the edges of the lake. To free it of the unwanted presence of the indians, he had clothes previously used by people with smallpox spread around the lake’s edges, resulting in the indians wearing them and subsequently dying. Thus began the sugarcane planting and the setting up of the d’El-Rey Mill, where today one finds the Visitor’s Center of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden.

Later, these lands were acquired by the alderman Amorim Soares, with the lake being referred to as the “Lagoa de Amorim Soares”. With his expulsion from the city in 1609, the lands were sold to his son-in-law, Sebastião Fagundes Varela, with the consequent name-changing to “Lagoa do Fagundes”. This landowner, by acquisition and invasion, expanded his ownership of the region, and by 1620, he was already the owner of all the land that goes from modern-day Humaitá to Leblon.

In 1702, his great-grandaughter, Petronilha Fagundes, then 35 years old, married the young Portuguese calvary officer, Rodrigo de Freitas de Carvalho, then just 18 years old, and who would give his name to the lake. Widowed, Rodrigo de Freitas returned to Portugal in 1717, where he died in 1748…

Fonte da Saudade


The Fonte da Saudade, near the Praia de Piaçava [1]. Towards the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, Portuguese laundry women who worked for rich families in Botafogo would get together around the fountain, washing clothes and sharing stories of missing their homeland.


The region stayed in the hands of the tenants without great fanfare until the beginning of the 19th century. Then, in 1808, the Portuguese Royal Family arrived during the transfer of the Portuguese court to Brazil. The Prince Regent appropriated the Engenho da Lagoa (Lagoon Mill) to build a powder factory and construct the Real Horto Botânico (Royal Botanical Garden)—today’s Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden.

During the 19th century many diverse solutions were thought of for the problem of stagnated water—until, in 1922, the Bureau of Rural Sanitation presented a project to “…clean up and beautify the Capital for the Independence Centennial festivities.” That project involved dredging a canal to reconnect the lagoon to the sea, and deepen the land bar. The soil removed to build the canal formed the island of Caiçara, seat of today’s club of the same name.

In a short time, embankments formed on its edges, which gradually reduced its surface area, providing land for the Jockey Club Brasileiro, the Jardim de Alá, and the sport seat of the Clube Naval on the island of Piraquê. The dredged channel is now called the Jardim de Alá Channel.” [Wiki]


1173791992_fSee the delineation over time

At the start of the 1970s, the most agressive form of real estate speculation ocurred in the area, which was invaded by construction companies that started landfilling the Lagoa even without government authorization, in order to build residential buildings. The Lagoa had already been enduring landfills since 1808 and had lost almost half of its original size. Many residents and arquitects protested, including Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa, demanding that the Lagoa be declared historic heritage.

This only came to happen in 1975 during the Marcos Tamoyo administration, who also approved a decree for the alignment of its edges. It was forbidden to alter the outline of the reflection pool. [2]

The Last of its Kind

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon is the last lagoon within Rio’s city limits. The others – Desterro (Rua dos Arcos), Santo Antônio (Largo do Carioca), Boqueirão (in front of Lapa Aqueduct), Lampadosa (Praça Tiradentes) and Sentinela (near Catumbi) – were, at one time or another, landfilled to create new urban spaces. Being the only one left, and taking into consideration its history and the historical what-ifs below, one can imagine it might have looked quite different today.

1 – In the 1920s, for a short time, residents protested for the complete landfilling of the Lagoa. 2 – If the lagoon wasn’t partially landfilled over the centuries, it would be between one-third to one-half larger. 3 – Several favelas that have since been wiped from existence could have surrounded the lagoon. 4 – A maritime complex called Lagocean (#7) could have transformed the area between the lagoon and the sea.

Builders of the City – 1921

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May 28, 1921

The announcement that the city government plans to excavate the Morro do Castelo to make an artificial inlet in Glória provoked a wave of protests, as violent as the undertow, the irreconcilable enemy of the wonderful Beira Mar. The city ordinance to earmark a violently conquered space to the Guanabara Bay was of no use as a mitigating crime of counter-aesthetics : an idea that seemed extravagant in a city that possesses a backdrop of forests and mountains, a huge natural park in comparison to the panoramas of the man-made gardens that are deplorably modest. A city friend, more exalted by anger in the face of a sacrilegious attempt, reduced his indignation to a rigorous maxim, exclaiming: Na bahia não se toca! (One doesn’t mess with the Bay!)

What weighs on a friend of the Guanabara Bay, the truth is that Rio de Janeiro wouldn’t exist if the prohibition of messing with it were a law since the times of Mem de Sá. One can say that the entire lower part of Brazil’s capital is an achievement of our ancestors over mangroves, grottos, swamps, lakes and marshes that covered, 400 years ago, the city where automobiles pass by today.

When the third governor of Brazil, anchoring in the bay in January of 1567, disembarked in the fortified village that the heroic Estácio, his nephew, built between the cliffs of Sugarloaf and the São João hill, he soon thought the hostile cradle and future capital of Brazil should be transported in the laps of the warriors to the hill, initially denominated as São Sebastião, which would be its throne, capital and reliquary for thee and a half centuries.

On the hill overlooking the Coligny fort, the bronze cannons, transported from the ships to the barbarian seafront, stucco fort, dominated the valleys and commanded the bay.

After his valiant nephew was buried, Mem de Sá started the construction of the city at the Piasaba port, near the Santiago stronghold, where the Misericordia church is today. Via the hill’s slope, the first steep and venerable street of the city of S. Sebastião began.

From the top, the navy, the soldiers and the indians, allies of Ararygboia, dug the fort’s canals, from parochial [], from the residence of the Government and the Parliament, walling the citadel with strong [pelissadas?].

Soon, however, the population felt that the mountain was small for them. Protected by the fort, they started going down the mountain side. Then man’s fight with the water started. At the foot of the hill, an extensive water-filled valley stretched out, which had to be dried out and landfilled. The colonizers and populators had to conquer, palm tree to palm tree, the lands of Rio de Janeiro. There still weren’t any aesthetic champions to defend Guanabara from the sacrilege of the landfills. From a salt water marsh, the inhabitants of S. Sebastião made a city. It was on the first conquered lands near the water that the streets and the maze of alleyways of Misericórdia aligned themselves – currently being demolished – and later Direita do Paço and do Cotovello streets. These formidable ancestors, who didn’t have dredgers nor automotive vehicles to excavate, managed to build, at the spot where they found mud and grottos, the Carmo convent and the S. José church.

They made a nation so that we today could create nationalism.

Among the hills of S. Sebastião (Castello), Carmo (Santo Antonio), Manoel de Brito (S. Bento), Paulo Caieiro (Formiga), Santa Thereza (do Pinto), da Lagoinha (Paula Mattos), Pedro Dias (do Senado) and Desterro (Santa Thereza), a plain of marsh and mangroves stretched out. In the spot where today are the Largo da Carioca and adjacent streets, was the Santo Antonio lagoon. Arcos street was opened on the Pedro Dias swamp. The current street Riachuelo was a trail that gave way from the Desterro to the Sentinella lagoon. Next to the Ajuda convent was the marshy Boqueirão lagoon, that was landfilled by order of the viceroy D. Luiz de Vasconcellos with land from the knoll of the Mangueiras ranch (today’s Largo da Lapa) for construction of the Passeio Público. Viólas street (today Theophilo Ottoni) and all the surrounding opening of streets were marshes fed by the tide. When, in 1600, Antonio Martins Palma and his wife D. Leonor Gonçalves started to build the first church at Candelaria, in fulfilment of vows, the bay waters reached the spot where Primeiro de Março street now is. All the large valleys from Gávea to Engenho Novo were marshes and sandbanks. In the current Largo do Machado was the Carioca lagoon.

Compared with these tenacious builders, who needed to landfill soaked plains so that in them they could improvise a city, government projects seem like simple engineering toys. Mr. Carlos Sampaio intending to landfill the Glória inlet, could invoke the cyclopic public works of those that came before as justification of his desires. Since the foundation of the city man has fought with Guanabara, ripping out land to build churches and houses. And the fight will continue, without truces.

Our grandchildren will see, possibly, avenue Rio Branco extended til Villegaignon. The Passos, the Frontins and the Carlos Sampaios of the future will continue being like our ancestors, destroyers of hills, drainers of lagoons, landfillers of mangroves, conquerors of Guanabara.

To this conclusion one arrives examining any city plan and considering that, based on its geographic situation, by the ampleness of its port and by its demographic conditions, already impossible to correct, Rio de Janeiro will represent in Brazil the corresponding function of New York to the United States. The removal of the capital to the Goias plateau will be imperceptably influential in the solution to the extremely enormous problem that future generations will be faced with. Rio de Janeiro will be, in less than a century, a city with 3 million inhabitants and to accommodate this population and create the conditions in which it can exercise its activities, in accordance with the categorical imperatives of space and time, it’ll be necessary to impose a sacrifice of much of its natural beauty which we defend today, to landfill considerable areas of the liquid plains of Guanabara, to enlarge the scanty valley, still pregnant with knolls and hills.

There would still be time for the city government to entrust the study of the problem of Rio’s transformations to a commission made up of more competent figures of national engineering, adding to this technical commission some architects and artists, and asking them to prepare a project together which would represent an agreement of authorized opinions. Otherwise the future will be sacrificed to mere momentaneous desires and the discussion around each partial project will be renewed.