The History of the Grand Villas
Getxo’s grand villas, located in Atxekolandeta, Neguri and Zugatzarte, were built between the end of the 19th and during the 20th centuries, and they are not open for visits by the general public because they are private homes. But as almost all of them are built to a similar pattern, we can create a model that will act as a guide and enable us to imagine how the people lived back then.
Basement or half-basement: Held the domestic staff’s working quarters: Laundry, kitchen, ironing room, wine cellar… and even the staff’s bedrooms.
Ground or main floor: Entry was via the vestibule which led into a large hall with a huge fireplace from which you could go to the dining room, library, lounge, etc. and which also contained the main staircase. This was the floor used for receiving guests and where the family gathered.
The 1st floor was used for bedrooms, both for the owners and their guests. There was usually a nursery for the children, where they had their own dining room and playroom.
The 2nd floor contained the staff bedrooms and the attic. Furthermore, almost all of these mansions had a chapel or prayer-room, a snooker room, a smoking room and a room exclusively for the lady of the house.
Regionalist architecture: Basque, Montañesa, architecture in the English tradition and eclectic architecture (a blend of different styles).
Regionalist architecture: : This reflects aspects from popular architecture. In the case of Basque regionalist architecture, there are many references to the traditional Basque farmhouse or caserío: A gently sloping pitched roof, exposed brick walls in the upper part of the façade, pronounced eaves, exposed timber frames, balconies, shutters, triangular ventilation gaps in the upper part, like in a hay loft. E.g.: Aizgoyen. In the case of the Neo-Montañesa style (following that of traditional Cantabrian houses), the most characteristic feature is the square tower, together with the sun deck, the motifs with railings, arcades, etc. Nevertheless, although the outside is as described, the inside will always follow the English models discussed. E.g.: Eguzki Alde.
Architecture in the English tradition: This is defined by the complicated roof designs, with multiple and very steep slopes, flat slates and a large number of different shaped galleries. Use of bricks for most of the façade and wood for decoration. E.g.: Sener.
Eclectic architecture: A blend of styles, copying models from the Gothic, Baroque and French architectural styles. However, notwithstanding a very small number of exceptions, almost all the middle-class mansions in Getxo are fruit of different elements, in which English is the predominant style.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, businessmen of different origins and political leanings shared the same space, their common denominator being that they were at the forefront of Spanish businesses running emblematic companies.
They were millionaires in monetary terms, but above all, they were influential people on the country’s political and business scene. Parliamentary laws were boycotted, politicians and monarchs were supported or opposed, fortunes were invested in industries and social works. Mines, the Altos Hornos steel works, transport, banks and electricity were the bases of their businesses. In the 1920’s, it is calculated that the Neguri families controlled some ¾ of the steel and ½ the iron produced in Spain, as well as a large part of the electricity production. Today, in the 21st century, some of these families have disappeared from business life, others have survived the changes.