Saturday, January 16

The town house

Back in the 13th century, the city had just been conquered by the Christians, the Alicante Council held its meetings in the church of San Nicolás. Until in 1370 the municipal sessions were held in the Lonja, located where the Mayor and Lonja de Caballeros streets now converge.

Finally, in 1541, the construction of a building began to house the municipal corporation and as the residence of the justice, which was the highest civil authority. It was in the Plaza Mayor (after the Sea, now the Town Hall).

The factory was built with stone from the San Julián quarry. The façade had several windows, an iron balcony about 16 meters long and a black marble façade adorned with the coat of arms of the city and a tombstone that mentioned those who made up the municipal council in 1541: the justice Nadal Castelló and the jurors Gaspar Joan Maiques, Jaime Puigvert and Pere Pascual. The interior was large enough to house, in addition to the residence and the court of justice, a room for the sessions of the Council and rooms for offices, the municipal archive, an oratory, the jail and the sale of meat.

The works of this building concluded in 1668, with the erection of a tower in which another tombstone was placed in which it was mentioned, under the initials of King Carlos II, the people who were then part of the Municipal Council: Justice Frances Pérez , the jurors Ricardo Paravicino, Vicent Pascual de Alfonso, Tomás Marty and Adrián Riera Moxica, the rational Luis Rotlá Canicia and the trustee Manuel Escorcia.

But, during the bombardment that the French army inflicted on the city in 1691, the building was practically devastated, leaving only a few walls and interior arches standing.

In order to hold its meetings, the municipal corporation had to rent for 150 pounds a year one of the few houses that were not destroyed.

On January 6, 1696, it was agreed to build a new City House in the same place where the previous one was, constituting a commission formed by Justice Diego Morant, jurors Luis Escorcia Ladrón, Fernando Salafranca, Pedro Samper and Carlos Beviá, and the citizens Álvaro Escorcia, Marco Antonio Berenguer, Roque Cerdá, Juan Sancho, Honorato Boyer and José Garriga.

In 1699 Vicente Soler drew up the project and the ditches began to be dug. On March 19 of that same year, it was agreed to expropriate the houses that adjoined the site where the works were to be carried out because the projected building was larger than the previous one. The owners were Francisco Giménez, Pedro Maltés, Esteban Blasco and the Count of Peñalva, and they received a total compensation of 6,348 pounds and 17 salaries, money that was obtained from the sale of four houses and four water lines that belonged to the municipality.

The factory began to be built in 1701, but in 1707 the works were suspended due to the War of Succession.

In «El Ayuntamiento de Alicante. History of its construction and architecture ”, a book published by the Institute of Alicante Studies in 1974, Joaquín Sáez Vidal distinguishes three stages in the construction of the current City Hall.

During the first (1699-1730) the ground and first floors were raised following the project of Vicente Soler. Luis Fons and Nicolás Ferrer worked on the works in this period.

In the second (1730-1770) the façades, the towers, the upper floor and the distribution of the interior were made, following projects by Juan Bautista Borja, Vicente Mingot and José Terol, el Mayor, because Soler’s project had been lost. We know from the accounts presented in 1743 and kept in the Municipal Archive (File 19-97-61 / 0) that the carpentry was in charge of Joseph Valentí and the locksmith in charge of Joseph Campos. It so happens that, despite the works not being completed, on March 1, 1760, the municipal corporation met for the first time in the building, taking advantage of the part that was already habitable.

During the third (1772-1780) it was Lorenzo Chápuli, after Mingot’s death, who directed the completion of the works. This period began with an appraisal of the works that had yet to be carried out (File 19-21-1 / 0). Expenditures were controlled by the Board of Proprieties and Excise Taxes and recorded in a volume that covers July 22, 1776 to July 28, 1780 (Book 5-106-0 / 0).

Rectangular in plan and occupying an area of ​​946 m², the Municipal Palace is a three-story Baroque-style building, the main façade of which could be seen from the sea at the time it was built. This stonework facade is 49 meters long and 19 meters high. At each end a square tower rises higher than the central body on semicircular arches and with groin vaults, through which you can access the rear of the building, which overlooked Calle Mayor (later Plaza del Progreso and now Santísima Faz). Each side of the towers measures 6.80 meters and is 33’50 high. They were topped by wooden spiers with iron weather vanes, until on January 19, 1791 a hurricane wind knocked down one of them; the spire of the other was dismantled for safety. In the tower located to the east, the tombstone dated 1668 that was in the Town Hall destroyed in 1691 was installed. This tower had to be repaired in the 19th century because its base was falsified.

In the center of the ground floor there is a rectangular door adorned with four Solomonic columns of compound order, flanked by another two semicircular doors and two other smaller ones. There are 12 balconies on the main floor and another 12 on the upper floor. Between the two rows of balconies the shield of the city is carved, supported by two white marble lions, the work of Pascual Valentí. The building was topped with a stone balustrade and a blue tiled dome with gold iridescent.

In front of the main facade there was a paved stone bench, surrounded by willows and terebinths.

The side and rear facades also had balconies. In the latter there was a door and some windows with bars that opened onto the prison buildings. When in 1849 the jail was transferred to the Casa del Rey, the bars were removed and the windows adorned with shelves, shutters and windowsills.

Through the three central doors of the frontispiece you can access the interior, where an atrium occupied the entire ground floor. From this hall, a red marble staircase ascends with white veins, coming from the Sierra del Rollo (Aspe), which receives light through the eight skylights in the dome. The railing is made of iron with bronze knobs and finds its starting point on a pedestal that was topped by a white marble lion. In this pillar the zero level was established in 1874, a reference point from which the height above sea level of all Spain is measured.

The staircase led (and leads) on the main floor to a rectangular room to the left of which was the mayor’s office and other municipal offices and to the right to the public assembly hall through a door decorated with the city’s coats of arms. In the center of this room (13.5 meters long by 9 wide and 7.5 high) there was a canopy under which the municipal corporation took a seat. Currently known as the Blue Room, it became a royal chamber during Isabel II’s visit to the city in 1858. Of the two doors on the wall to the right of this room, the first leads to a chapel on whose altar there was an image of the Virgin of the Rosary, which in 1767 was replaced by an oil painting of the Immaculate Conception painted by Lucas Espinós, occupying the center of an altarpiece built by Pascual Valentí and that cost 174 pounds, on whose sides representative paintings of San Nicolás de Bari and the Relic of the Holy Face were placed, for which Juan de Miranda charged 40 pounds. Through the second door you access the current plenary hall. The floor of these rooms had tiles made by Manuel Ferrando in 1759, which due to its poor condition was replaced by black and white stone paving in 1877.

Stairs separate from the main one were built to reach the rooms on the upper floor and the towers.

In addition to those already mentioned, over the years various improvements have been carried out inside the building, which in 1961 was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

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