Bonnie Tucker / FST
At 8pm on October 3, the Palacio Barolo, Buenos Aires’ first and most eccentric high-rise, will give a luminous preview of Argentina’s bicentennial festivities when a beam from its recently repaired beacon will briefly illuminate the sky.
In front of the tower at Avenida de Mayo 1370, pianist Horacio Lavandera will play three sonatas by Beethoven that evoke the theme of the building, whose floor plan illustrates the Hell, Purgatory and Heaven of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
In 1919, wealthy textile merchant Luis Barolo commissioned Italian architect Mario Palanti to build the 100-meter tower because both were admirers of Dante. Unfortunately, Barolo did not live to see it inaugurated in 1923.
Its beacon, whose 300,000 candle-power beam was visible as far away as Colonia in Uruguay, was used to announce matters of importance to the population, of which the most famous was the result of the Dempsey-Firpo prize fight that took place in New York shortly after the inauguration. Porteños knew that a green light would mean a victory of the Argentine favorite, and red defeat. That night began with jubilation inspired a green light, but ended with bitterness when the color unexpectedly changed to red.The beacon was repaired thanks to a campaign by the City Hall’s Doors to the Bicentennial Program, which obtained contributions from the owners of the 240 offices in the building, the Italian Embassy, and private companies. From now on, the Barolo’s beacon will be turned on for a half hour on the night of the 25th of every month to commemorate the revolution of May 25, 1810.
PHOTO CREDIT: The top floors of the Barolo building, crowned by the beacon. Bonnie Tucker.