Mexico City: Plateros & Alcaicería st. Figueroa Domenech, 1899.
The great clothing store “La Sorpresa y Primavera Unidas” located in the corner of Alcaicería and Plateros streets, was owned by A. Fourcade and Goupil. This elegant establishment offered French perfumes, fine linen fabrics, exquisite silk gauzes and cotton clothes, with an abundance of imported European items, and support from their headquarters at Rue de l'Echiquier 41, Paris 10.
La Sorpresa y Primavera Unidas offered its merchandise in five departments: articles for furnishing and table linen; bed sheets; fashions for ladies; lace, ornaments and gloves, and religious articles. These goods could also be sent home. In their 1891 commercial announcements proudly announced their telephone line: number 608.
In 1907, the building was transformed and modernized by architect Hugo Dorner and the engineer Luis Bacmeister, with a remarkable metallic structure, engineering marvel, finished in only three months, satisfying the requirement of speed and modernity of the owners, in addition, the new warehouse was extended one more floor for the solace of the demanding clientele. The spacious building was 30 meters in front by 40 meters deep, carved in local quarry stone.
The building you can observe today is only a section of a larger one, corresponding to the corner of Madero and Palma. The adjoining building was demolished by ignorant pickaxe developers. What survives retains delicate details, such as the stone placrads and a kind of niche, perhaps rescued from the old building. The signs that use to be under the cornices have disappeared, but its central balcony and the extraordinary iron works, mansardes which show an outstanding French neoclassical style. The excellent foundations, engineering and materials have allowed this wonder to survive.
Mexican writer Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera evokes the doors of this establishment in his poem to the Duchess Job (who was a beautiful grissette or employee), while José de T. Cuéllar was impressed by the crinolines and lingerie sold in the famous store. In other old photographs you can observe the frenzy of carriages and pedestrians coming to their purchases. The same activity occurs on Madero street today, but its doors are now open to new firms, which splendor has to do with the beauty of this heritage building.
Further reading: Historia del comercio en México
- Figueroa Domenech, Guía general descriptiva de la República Mexicana, Barcelona, 1899, vol. I.
- Paz, Ireneo y José Ma. Tornel, Guía comercial de la Ciudad de México, 1882.
- Silva Contreras, Mónica, "Arquitectura y materiales modernos: funciones y técnicas internacionales en la ciudad de México, 1900-1910, en INAH, Boletín de monumentos históricos, Tercera época, núm. 22, mayo agosto, 2011.