Palma streets and houses

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"Palma has 296 streets (and another  56 in the Arraval neighborhood). They are generally narrow and poorly paved. Many of them are paved with river rocks, some with cut slabs. The rocks are almost always worn due to the carts rolling over them, at times leaving deep ruts. Unfortunately, these holes are almost always then filled with rubble. Different types of rocks are used to pave the streets. The first are irregularly shaped, compact limestone from Garriga Rasa, not far from La Vileta, in the district of Palma. The top quality rock of this type costs 3 pesetas per square meter; the second best quality costs 2.50 pesetas, and the third, 1.80 pesetas. Second, cobblestones made from this same, top-quality limestone cost 10 pesetas per square meter; second-tier limestone cobblestones cost 8 pesetas, while the third best, 4.80 pesetas. The third type are white or grey stone slabs from Estellencs. Fourth are reddish rocks from Estellencs, used primarily for some of the lower streets in Vila d’Amunt. Fifth are flat slabs from Montjuïc. Sixth are heavy limestone rocks from Son Vida, also within the district of Palma. These last three types were used some years ago, while the first three have been used more recently and continue to be used today. Some streets are so narrow that a cart can barely squeeze through them.

Palma has approximately 3,046 houses, while there are 280 in Arraval de Santa Catalina. 56 of the homes are a single-story tall; 464 have two floors; 1,398 consist of three stories; and 1,128 are more than three stories tall (with an average of 4.5 stories). In the Arraval neighborhood, 100 houses consist of a single story;  100 have two floors; 61 are three stories tall; and 3 have more than 3 stories. In addition, there are  16 shacks. However, the number of houses in Arraval grows year after year. In Palma many of the houses belong to several owners, some owning the ground floor, and others one or several of the other floors.

The houses are solid and well-built. Many of the facades have been plastered, though some also reveal their sandstone blocks. The first system is preferred because the blocks don’t always fit well together. This is because lower quality and more economic varieties of stones are used. In addition, the plaster also keeps the humidity from passing through the walls. The homes’ facades are simple and serious. The houses are more pleasing to the eye due to their harmonious proportions than for their architectural ornamentation. The main entrance consists almost always of a large half-point arch supported on very long stone door posts. Though there are some heavily ornate and artistic doors, the majority are smooth, made of “llenyam vermell” or other types of pine with brass knockers, always carefully polished and shiny. Many houses have large balconies with shutters reaching down to the ground and divided into sections so that only the top, middle or lower parts can be opened at will. The glass panes also take up the whole window. Railings tend to be made of wrought iron or, simply, square bars. Some feature scrolls and are Renaissance in style. Almost all the houses have an attic (“desván” or “porxo”) which is completely open to the exterior, supporting the roof with small octagonal columns or a series of rounded arches. At other times, they are simple square windows which are always left open. The roof forms an eave along the entire facade, protecting it. The ends of the beams are carefully carved, and many call our attention due to their beauty and delicacy. At other times, the eaves also feature very pretty carved statues as occurs with the eave on the Town Hall (“Casa Consistorial”). On more humble houses, the only part sticking out over the street is the last row of tiles. Almost all the houses have broad entrances, and the majority have a patio delimited by porticos with arches, at times with a very daring length. These arches are supported on short and potbellied columns, frequently made of marble. The most common ones are made of marble from Binissalem, their columns ending in pseudo-Ionic or Roman capitals.

An external staircase allows people to climb to the upper floor ending in the vestibule or through another analogous gallery to the patio. If the patio doesn’t have any porticos, the staircase in the patio is protected by a garret. Some older houses feature Gothic handrails with very pretty figures. The steps tend to consist of stone from Santanyí, and they are rarely too steep. In certain homes, the steps are made of marble from Binissalem, and only in new homes do we see pavement tiles with convex molding made in Manacor out of baked clay. Unfortunately, these crack very easily. The door opening onto the landing is almost always made of “llenyam vermell” pine and always has very polished latches or bolts. A small brass bell can be rung from outside via a simple wire ending in a ring. In more contemporary times, doorbells have been introduced, consisting of an interior bell which rings by spinning or pulling an exterior lever."

Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria.Las Baleares por la palabra y el grabado. Majorca: City of Palma. Ed. Sa Nostra, Caja de Baleares. Palma de Mallorca. 1982.


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