Discovering

From Majestic Club to Casa do Alentejo Association

February 3, 2021 getLISBON 0Comment

No one will guess what awaits him when passing by the discreet door of Casa do Alentejo Association, located in Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, in the Baixa/Liberdade axis.

Inside the headquarters of the Associação Regionalista Alentejana (association of the Alentejo region), we can find stairs that will lead us to a wonderful world of fantasy, eccentricity and luxury.

What building is this? What is its story? What association is this that loves and preserves this unique place?

Let’s find out…

The Alverca Palace

The headquarters of Casa do Alentejo Association is based in the old Alverca Palace, built in the late 17th century and which belonged to the Paes de Amaral family, Viscounts of Alverca.

The palace was built adjacent to the Fernandine Walls, where Portas de Santo Antão used to be, next to the Independence Palace. Perhaps it was for this reason that it didn’t suffer too much damage from the earthquake of 1755. However, it is known that it was renewed after this tragedy, since it has Pombaline cage structures.

But the big transformation of this building was in the early 20th century with the aim of opening the first casino of Lisbon: the Majestic Club.

Within only two years, between 1917 and 1919, architect Silva Júnior (1868-1937) carried over an eclectic and markedly revivalist project, which resulted in a cinematographic space that is still surprising and dazzling today.

The 1920s will always be known worldwide as the roaring twenties.

In Lisbon these times were also lived intensely, with conquests when it comes to customs, despite the climate of political instability marked by a young Republic, by the participation in the first major world conflict and by the country’s economic and social difficulties.

The aristocracy was bankrupt and decadent and the rising bourgeoisie reigned, giving a breath of fresh air to society.

The palaces that were still left, were rented for the most diverse purposes and it was not uncommon for them to be turned into nightlife establishments.

This was the case of the Alverca Palace, which had already met other tenants before 1918, the year it became the Majestic Club, later Monumental Club and today Casa do Alentejo Association.

The Majestic Club

Casa do Alentejo Association: detail of the ceiling of the roulette room, symbolized by the paintings of a wheel of luck where peacock feathers and fluttering butterflies are present.
Detail of the ceiling of the roulette room

The Majestic Club was one of the most relevant places in bohemian Lisbon at the time, but it wasn’t accessible to everyone. To attend this space, several requirements were necessary, the most relevant being having economic power to support a high quota. However, the luxurious club did not disappoint expectations and justified the selectivity.

The ambitious project led by Silva Júnior counted with the collaboration of the decorators Benvindo Ceia and Domingos Costas, of the painters Júlio Silva and José Ferreira Bazalisa and of Jorge Colaço, who produced countless tile panels.

Brief Description

Here reigns the eclectic taste reflected in the revivals.

Firstly, we are faced with a neo-Arab courtyard that transports us to the One Thousand and One Nights tales. From here we have access to several spaces, including a ladies’ toilet decorated in the most exquisite Rococo style and next to it, a small room that was a barbershop, where the paintings resemble soap bubbles…

Ladies' toilet and barbershop
Ladies’ toilet and barbershop; 1930s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

The same neo-Arab style accompanies us when accessing the upper floor through a split staircase that is believed to be the original of the palace. Here we are overwhelmed with light and colour, coming from the magnificent coloured stained glass windows and the geometric pattern tiles.

Neo-Arab style courtyard and staircase; 1930’s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

On the first floor, the amazement continues with never ending surprises, where each room has a different style.

A living room features tile panels where passages of Lusíadas by the poet Luís de Camões are represented in blue and white and in other colours and framed by neo-Manueline decorative elements in yellow.

Living room that features tile panels where passages of Lusíadas by the poet Luís de Camões are represented in blue and white and in other colours and framed by neo-Manueline decorative elements in yellow.
Living room decorated with tile panels where passages of Lusíadas are represented ; 1930’s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

In the impressive hall of mirrors, in the midst of an explosion of Neo-baroque golden, there’s no lack of symmetry produced by the fake windows that reflect the real ones. In this evocation of Palace of Queluz, a stage and two doors next to it, make the connection to another more private space.

Hall of mirror: in the impressive hall of mirrors, in the midst of an explosion of Neo-baroque golden, there’s no lack of symmetry produced by the fake windows that reflect the real ones.
Hall of mirrors Neo-baroque style; 1930’s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

It is a game room, where the concept of game is repeated symbolically by the paintings that represent sensual female figures and fluttering butterflies that reflect the Art Nouveau style, in vogue at the beginning of the 20th century.

Bar and roulette room with decorations that reflect the Art Nouveau style, in vogue at the beginning of the 20th century.
Bar and roulette room; 1930’s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

In another game room, the colourful tiles of Jorge Colaço (1868-1942) completely cover the walls, reproducing scenes from the rural world of Minho, while in the billiard room, current library, the hunting scenes are framed with arabic geometric decorative elements.

The billiard room decorated with tiles of Jorge Colaço; 1930’s
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

In another game room, the colourful tiles of Jorge Colaço (1868-1942) completely cover the walls, reproducing scenes from the rural world of Minho, while in the billiard room, current library, the hunting scenes are framed with arabic geometric decorative elements.

The casino also had private, small compartments where visitors could enjoy more privacy. Each has a unique decoration and is more surprising than the one prior to it. Today they’re renewed and serve as offices for the management bodies of Casa do Alentejo Association.

Casa do Alentejo Association

Casa do Alentejo Association: neo-Arab style courtyard
Neo-Arab style courtyard

The casino remained open until 1928 and it closed until 1932 when it was rented out to the then Grémio Alentejano, today Casa do Alentejo Association, headquarters of the association of the Alentejo region.

In 1981 the palace was acquired by its tenants, thus becoming, as they like to say, the property of all alentejanos (people of Alentejo).

Fortunately, this rich heritage is in good hands. An effort has been made to preserve and restore it and it is desirable that it can continue this way.

Former private, today offices of the management bodies of Casa do Alentejo

Former private, today offices of the management bodies of Casa do Alentejo

Former private, today offices of the management bodies of Casa do Alentejo

Hall of mirrors

Hall of mirrors

Hall of mirrors

Tiles panel by Jorge Colaço in the library

Tiles panel by Jorge Colaço in the library

Tiles panel by Jorge Colaço in the library

Painting of the roulette room

Painting of the roulette room

Painting of the roulette room

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It is open to the public, where you can enjoy the pleasures of Alentejo cuisine. For this, there is a restaurant and a tavern located in a courtyard named after the writer Manuel da Fonseca (1911-1993). Here, we can see two murals produced with the purpose of paying homage to Michell Giacometti (1929-1990), the ethnologist musician who related so much to cante (Alentejo Song) and to the lifestyle of the people of Além do Tejo (beyond the Tagus river).

Restaurant where the colorful tiles of Jorge Colaço completely fill the walls, reproducing scenes from the rural world of Minho. And Manuel da Fonseca Courtyard we can see two murals produced with the purpose of paying homage to Michell Giacometti
Restaurant and Manuel da Fonseca Courtyard

The magnificent rooms on the first floor can be rented for parties and events, and new rooms are also available for small groups.

Casa do Alentejo Association also has a library where around 10,000 titles of different themes are available, naturally with a greater incidence in the Alentejo. Book launches, meetings and exhibitions are also held here.

Throughout its existence, Casa do Alentejo Association has contributed to the dynamism, promotion and preservation of the culture of the Alentejo in the city of Lisbon and also directly in the region it defends.

It is not only a cultural space for the dissemination of literature, fine arts, handicrafts and gastronomy of the Alentejo, but also a place that promotes the discussion and resolution of old problems and new challenges that the Alentejo faces.

This active role is present in thematic conferences, congresses and other events, initiatives aimed at regional development, improving life and preserving the culture of its region. More information on their website.

A place not to be missed, a heritage to defend, an association to support!

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