In a city filled with architectural curiosities, one that captures the attention more than most is the Confiteria del Molino, on the corners of Rivadavia and Callao, opposite the Congeso Nacional. Abandoned since 1997, it now sits in one of the best locations of Buenos Aires, looking unloved and getting dirtier every day. Things were not always this way of course, and the building has a much brighter past than its current sorry state implies.
Gaetano Brenna had been operating as a cake maker in Buenos Aires since 1850 and the Brenna name became synonymous with some of the finest Pan Dulce to be found. Towards the end of the 19th Century Brenna changed the name of his café from Confiteria del Centro to Antigua Confitería del Molino (Old Windmill Café) in honour of the nearby Molino Lorea, the first flour mill built in Buenos Aires. In 1905 they moved to the current site and in 1917 the Nueva Confitería del Molino opened in the building we still see today.
In order to build this Art Nouveau masterpiece, architect Francisco Gianotti imported all of the doors, marble, ceramics, glass and 150 m2 of stained glass from Italy. Above the decorative windmill, the attic roof and the decorative cupola still have their gold tiles, although due to the dirt accumulated over the years, these are best seen when it’s raining!
Being such a prominent and striking building, many famous Argentines (and others) have passed through its doors. From Eva Perón to Carlos Gardel (who requested a special dessert be created in honour of his friend, jockey Irineo Leguisamo) to Madonna, who even filmed the video for her song Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (see below) in the building, less than a year before it closed.
Unfortunately, the exterior beauty and beautiful clientele did not mean that the business was being run with any level of competence and after several decades of bankruptcies and buyouts the Confiteria finally closed its doors on the 24th January 1997, and was named a National Historic Monument the same year. Plans have come and go to reopen the building, and there is currently a proposal of expropriation working its way through the House of Representatives. Until that happens however, the Confiteria del Molina will remain closed, it’s grubby exterior giving us only a small glimpse of her glamourous past.