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Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon

Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon: History From 16th Century to today’s charm!

That Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon is one of the most charming districts in Rio-de-Janeiro, everybody knows. But what about its history? I bet few ( even amongst native Cariocas) know how the Lagoa District became the glamour spot as we see currently, with many restaurants like Mr.Lam Rio, Braz Pizzaria, Katmandu Sushi Lounge and the lovely Lagoa Kiosks. So let´s get to know a little bit of the district’s history and origins:

In the XVI century, there were some farms and mills in Jardim da Gávea, comprising the current neighborhoods Gávea, Jardim Botânico, and Lagoon itself. This area presented good lands for sugar cane plantation, which activity interested very much to the settlers in the beginning of Carioca’s life.
At the lake borders, which were known by the Indians as Sapopenipã – meaning lagoon of flat roots in Tupi-Guarani, and by the Portuguese people as lagoon of the socós, since there were loads of such birds in the region, it was settled the Engenho Del Rei (King’s Mill) by the Governor Antonio Salema, right after having expelled the French corsairs from Baía de Guanabara in 1575.

At the beginning of the XIX century, D. João VI when moving to Brazil, in 1808, arrived at Rio-de-Janeiro and, the first thing he did was to built a gunpowder factory so that his army and navy were able to protect the wonder city against possible French invasions. The location chosen to build the factory was within the lands around the lagoon, which was already named Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. In order to such construction to be done, D. João VI reimbursed Rodrigo de Freitas family, and the factory was built this year. In 1826, the gunpowder factory built by D. João VI exploded and was, then, moved to Raiz da Serra on the way D. Pedro II used to make do get to Petrópolis, which was called Fábrica da Estrela (Star Factory). From half of XIX century, sugar cane production starts facing a crisis making some mills in the rural regions to become small farms.

On January 1, 1871, Jardim Botânico Railway Company, a company that got the first concession of mule trams in Rio-de-Janeiro, extended its railways to where today is Jardim Botânico neighborhood. Two years after, on December 17, 1873, the Company launched Gávea extension, which became “Freguesia” next year. Freguesia da Gávea, which comprised the current neighborhoods of Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, Gávea, Ipanema , Leblon, Vidigal, São Conrado, and part of Barra da Tijuca, reached in 1890 a population of 4.712 people.

At the end of the century, Freguesia da Gávea started to be filled by textile factories, and then, fast increasing population. In the first decade of XX century, in the urban reform program implemented by the Mayor Pereira Passos, it was performed Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon sanitation. In 1919, Mayor of Rio-de-Janeiro Paulo de Frontim, aiming at solving the lagoon sanitation problem decided for its salinization, but it was during Carlos Sampaio’s administration that such area started to be effectively urbanized, integrating, thus, the new and large “noble area” to the city. (In 1920, although the groundings, the Lagoon area were still closed to Humaitá and Marquês de São Vicente streets) . In 1922, the lagoon border was rounded by a beautiful avenue, which was used for building houses for the carioca high-society, this avenue was called Epitácio Pessoa Ave., honoring the President of Republic that time, Mr. Epitácio Pessoa. In 1926, it was founded the Brazilian Jockey Club, which remains in the same area until today.

In the 50’s, the textile factories ‘Carioca’ and ‘Corcovado’ were closed in Rio-de-Janeiro, and their areas were urbanized, thus ending the industrial phase in the Neighborhood. At the same time, the shantytowns were withdrawn from the region where the poorest lived. During Governor Carlos Lacerda’s administration, the Rebouças tunnels were opened, which links Lagoon to Comprido, thus linking North to South.

At the beginning of the 70’s, the real state speculation occurred in a more aggressive way in the neighborhood which was targeted by the Construction Companies, which started to ground, even though they had no authorization from the City Hall, the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in order to build residential buildings. Thus, the Lagoon, which had already been suffered from the groundings since 1808, lost almost half of its original area. Several protests from people who lived there and architects like Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa came out in order to make the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and its border declared historical patrimony.

In the 80’s, the attentions in Rio-de-Janeiro, were to Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon waters clean-up, where several projects were presented and some of them, having the private initiative help and international capital, were performed. However, only in the 90’s, Cariocas could appreciate the water mirror less polluted. It was in the last three decades of the century that the neighborhood got a good participation in Carioca’s nightlife with bars, discos and restaurants for all tastes.

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