La Barceloneta is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city. Everyone knows it because it is the most famous beach district in the city, fish and seafood restaurants or tapas bars. But not everyone knows is the space of it, once was an island, and that the origin of the neighborhood is military.
A MILITARY DESIGN
The engineer Juan Martín Cermeño designed the Barceloneta district according with an old project by Prosper Van Verboom. Promoted by the Marquis de la Mina, the urbanization began in 1753. As the Barcelona of the time was under military control, the design made had to improve the movement of troops through the neighborhood.
First, the fishermen and merchant barracks that had settled there after 1714 were demolished, and straight streets were drawn. The aim was that if cavalry attack the neighborhood, no ambush could be organized. They could enter by one side of the neighborhood and they could leave by the other.
The height of the buildings was also set for military reasons. The constructions could not exceed the width of the streets. In this way they did cut down visibility to the cannons, which from the Ciutadella aimed at the port.
All the houses were the same: 120 square meters, with ground floor, first floor and roof. So, they were about 60 square meters per floor. They had front and rear entrances, and on the façade were three openings for each floor; on the ground floor, two windows and the door, and on the second floor, two windows and the exit to the balcony.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
From 1857 La Barceloneta passed to municipal jurisdiction. Until then it was under military. So, the market was built and also the height of the buildings was increased.
Because of the industrial revolution and due to the proximity of the beach, many factories began to move to the neighborhood. Among the most important were the Tallers Nuevo Vulcano in 1836, the Gasómetro in 1840 or La Maquinista Terrestre i Marítima in 1856. This attracted many workers who worked in them and were looking for a rental housing close to the workplace.
A FOURTH OF AN APARTMENT
This demand for living space led many homeowners to profit from it. Many of the original buildings were enlarged with additional floors. But in addition, many of those already divided were divided into two apartments per floor. This is what is called in Barceloneta the fourth of an apartment.
Thus, a house of 120 m2 for use by a single family was converted to 4 apartments of 30 m2 for 4 different families. In addition, an independent staircase to the upper floor had to be made and windows had to be walled. This made the interior of the floors even more suffocating. So much, that women use to go out to sew on the balcony or on the street.
The craftsmen also did their activities on the street, and, as clothes spread on the balconies and water dropped on the sidewalk, everyone walking there to avoid getting wet, they walked in the middle of the street.
That is why the people of Barcelona said that they knew the people of Barceloneta because they were walking in the middle of the street.