|Photo by George P. Thresher titled "Lottery
Bldg". Malcolm Lubliner Collection. All rights reserved.
The following essay is about a beautiful
kiosk-like structure that George P. Thresher photographed around
the turn of the twentieth century called the "Kiosco Morisco" (Moorish Kiosk). Mr.
Thresher labeled the photo "1177 Lottery Bldg" because
for a brief time the Mexican National Lottery was drawn there. The
structure has had an illustrious history and continues to serve today
as a popular Mexico City landmark. This kiosk was designed by a prominent
engineer named José Ramón Ibarrola as an exhibit for the New Orleans
Universal Cotton Exposition and World's Fair which ran from December
16, 1884 to June 1, 1885. One of the features of the Kiosco Morisco
is that it was made from cast iron pieces that could be taken apart
and reassembled with relative ease making the kiosk portable and
available for reuse at other locations. Many people think that the
Moorish design was adopted because of the Moorish influence on Mexican
architecture but in reality the theme was chosen because interest
in the Middle East was very high at the time and the Moorish designs
at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition just a few years earlier
in 1876 had been well received.
At the New Orleans fair the kiosk
was called the Mexican Alhambra Palace because the style of architecture
so closely resembled the style of the Alhambra Palace in Granada,
Spain. It was also sometimes referred to as the "Octagonal Building" because
its walls were in the form of an octagon or eight sided figure. After
the New Orleans Fair the kiosk was dismantled sent to Mexico City
and erected on the south side of the Parque Alameda Central. There
the Kiosco Morisco stood until 1910 when it was moved to make way
for a semicircular memorial known as the Hemiciclo Juárez, which
is dedicated to the former Mexican president, Benito Juárez. The
Kiosco Morisco in turn was moved to The Alameda de Santa María la
Ribera where it stands today.
Although there was a small Mexican exhibit at the Philadelphia Centennial
in 1876, Mexico's attendance at New Orleans constituted the first
major effort to portray itself as a modern nation on the world stage.
Some people claim that the Kiosco Morisco was used at the Exposición
Internacional de París in1889 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904 but I can find no evidence of this.
Mexico did participate in these fairs but the exhibits were larger
and completely different. I believe that one of the reasons that
people think the Kiosco Morisco was used again in Paris and St. Louis
was that flattering promotional material from the New Orleans exhibition
was used to create advance promotional material for future fairs.
Mexico also participated in the Chicago exhibition of 1893 and the
Buffalo exhibition of 1901 but for economic reasons it was on a much
Cast iron, the material used for the Kiosco Morisco, was a natural
for that time. Cast iron was the metal of choice throughout the second
half of the 19th century. Not only was it a fire resistant material
but large structures could be produced with cast iron at less cost
than other materials such as brick or stone and cast iron structures
could be erected with speed and efficiency. Cast iron is also more
resistant to corrosion than either wrought iron or steel and while
molten, cast iron is easily poured into molds, making it possible
to create nearly unlimited decorative and structural forms. For this
reason it was particularly useful in creating the intricate design
patterns on the Kiosco Morisco. Apparently José Ramón Ibarrola, the
designer, was an acquaintance of Andrew Carnegie, the iron and steel
magnate. The sections of the Kiosco Morisco were cast at the Union
Mills Foundry of the Keystone Bridge Company which was one of Andrew
Carnegie's companies. As a matter of fact both Mr. Carnegie and Señor
Ibarrola received honorary degrees together in 1906 from the University
At the New Orleans Exhibition the Kiosco
Morisco (Mexican Alhambra) was situated near the southeast corner
of the Main Building. Over the entrance to the Kiosco Morisco hung
a prominent sign containing the Mexican national seal and the words, "Mexican Mining Pavilion",
in gilded letters. Within the pavilion were large glass display-cases,
arranged in two circles, in which were placed a multitude of rare
minerals from each of Mexico's mineral States.
The States having
the finest displays were Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Guanajuato
and Hidalgo, whose immense resources in iron, copper, zinc and lead,
as well as in the more precious metals of gold and silver, were well
represented. Precious stones were also shown and in particular opals
from the state of Queretaro.
Beneath the dome, at the center of the
pavilion, was a half a ton of silver displayed as a mountain, while
collections of various tropical shrubs were placed beneath the colored-glass
windows surrounding the building.
A distinguished mining engineer
and very accomplished individual by the name of Gilberto Crespo y
Martínez was in charge of the displays in Mexican exhibit. In addition
to the Kiosco Morisco, a wooden building was constructed to house
both a Mexican martial band and a cavalry squadron. It was reported
that the Kiosco Morisco and the Mexican band were the most popular
foreign attractions at the fair.
The Kiosco Morisco was declared a National Artistic Monument by
the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia en 1972
and underwent a complete restoration in 2003. It is located at the
Alameda de Santa María la Ribera which is bounded by the streets
Salvador Díaz Mirón, Dr. Atl, Manuel Carpio, and Torres Bodet, in
the Colony of Santa María la Ribera. It is stunningly beautiful and
well worth a visit.
Bob Mrotek can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.