Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Buenos Aires began to definitively abandon its appearance as a large village thanks to the multiplication of new constructions and the definition of an urban profile with European characteristics that added to the colonial architecture the influence coming from the schools. from France and Italy. In parallel with the consolidation of Argentina as an agro-exporting country, by the time of the Centennial the city of Buenos Aires had added to its urban profile a number of subsidiaries of British and American companies, buildings that were favorite sons of the industrial revolution whose architecture was characterized by the use of red brick and carved stone. Many of them remain standing, although with a renewed imprint and with other functions.
Among them is the building that was, and still is, one of the most representative brands for Argentines, the former Bagley factory.
To talk about it, we first go back to the history of its creator: Melville Sewell Bagley. Bagley was born on July 10, 1838 in the city of Bangor, Maine, United States. Melville would first move to New Orleans, where he would work in a fabric store. In 1862, a year after the outbreak of the Civil War, Bagley emigrated to Buenos Aires at the age of twenty-four, as a representative of a publishing house. Installed in this city, he worked for a time as an assistant in the renowned La Estrella pharmacy, owned by the Demarchi brothers, which is still located on the corner of Defensa and Alsina streets. It was precisely there, among the test tubes and healing herbs, where the idea of creating a tonic that would serve as a “saving remedy for all ills” was born.
He experimented with different formulas, but focused on one in particular, based on the peel of bitter or sour oranges that grew as ornamental shrubs in his house in Bernal (which remains standing to this day). It is believed that the young inventor had some knowledge in chemistry. He knew that flavonoids were found in the peels of bitter oranges, which have multiple properties not only digestive, but also healing. In the Iberian Peninsula, various citrus fruits were used as antidotes against poisons, as well as to reactivate blood circulation, improve digestion and calm muscle inflammation. Today, there is more information about “bioflavonoids”. These are chemicals that are found naturally in certain plants and foods, and that have been shown to reduce the incidence of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and immune disorders and more than 6,000 different flavonoids have been identified in plants, but they generally occupy a insignificant portion in the daily diet we eat.
Upon learning of these properties, Bagley knew that his tonic was going to work. For this reason, he devised a particular advertising campaign to publicize his product, maintaining intrigue and suspense. Two months before launching it for sale, he had the cobblestone sidewalks of Buenos Aires painted with the name “Hesperidina” in black letters. At that time, this was a novelty and people wondered “what was being announced.” Eye-catching notices were also published, with the phrase “Hesperidina will come.” On December 24, 1864, a new advertisement appeared in the newspapers: the drink was already on sale in cafes, bars, pharmacies and drugstores.
The drink was so successful that he planted an extensive orange tree plantation in his own house in Bernal and requested the fruits from neighboring towns, such as Florencio Varela and Adrogué, which had bitter orange trees in their streets as ornaments.
The product that Bagley invented managed to revolutionize the Argentine beverage market, only occupied, at that time, by spirits, such as grappa or gin. According to the president of the Argentine Academy of Letters, Pedro Luis Barcia, the name of the drink came from Greek mythology, which says that "when the Greeks sailed along the coasts of Valencia, the oranges in the middle of the green leaves looked like golden fruits." ”, “golden fruits of the garden of the Hesperides”, hence the name Hesperidina arises.
Quickly, the drink became very famous and became fashionable, not only among the gauchos, but also in the big cities and also among women, who at that time did not drink in public, but Bagley's liquor was considered of Low alcohol content compared to spirits and other popular drinks.
In 1866, two years after its launch, Hesperidina was hit by a wave of imitators who, taking advantage of the lack of legislation to protect brands, tried to gain an important place in this new market. Therefore, Bagley undertook a campaign to achieve a single registry of trademarks and patents in the country. In 1876, he convinced President Nicolás Avellaneda of its creation. In this way, Hesperidin became the first patent and registered trademark, with license Number 1 in Argentina.
In addition to his famous and popular invention, he undertook other projects. For example, he was one of the first to be concerned about transportation in the southern area, inaugurating the horse tram in Quilmes in 1873.
Bagley was a pioneer in the manufacture of cookies. In 1875, he launched his line of "Lola" cookies, which quickly became a success, not only for their flavor, but also for not having artificial additives. It should be noted that, until then, the cookies were imported from England. Shortly thereafter, he marketed the successful Bagley orange marmalade, made from the pulp of the oranges used to produce Hesperidin. At that time, the first slogan in Argentine commercial history emerged: “The 3 good things about Bagley” (the drink, the cookies and the jam). All the products were accepted by the population and became part of the Buenos Aires idiosyncrasy.
In 1880, at the age of 42, Bagley died early, and his company was left in the hands of María Juana Hamilton, who was his second wife and mother of his eight children.
The large production of the Bagley company continued on a large scale through the years.
In 1892, the company that until then was located at 200 Maipú Street in downtown Buenos Aires, moved its headquarters to 100 Montes de Oca Avenue, in the Barracas neighborhood. The new English-style building little by little was occupying an entire block. First with a brick front on Montes de Oca Avenue, it had a geometric garden on its front that took advantage of the ravine, with a large fence marking the limit with the street. The candy, liquor and cookie factory grew in stages, achieving a progressive occupation of the land.
In 1910, the need to expand production led to the acquisition of land at Gral. Hornos 256, for the construction of a new pavilion, completing the block. This new building was also made with exposed brick, but with a less stately image and more linked to the industrial revolution.
In 1949, with a project by Eng. Guillermo Peña, a new building was built, losing the old construction and, unfortunately, also causing the Europa passage that linked Hornos to Montes de Oca to disappear.
Regarding its production, the Bagley company always managed to name its products, taking some symbols of the time as inspiration. For example, Miter cookies adopted this name after the former president himself authorized it. Or like when they called the filled wafers Opera, in 1908, inspired by the Teatro Colón, which they inaugurated at that time. They then launched several of the most popular lines of cookies, which still exist today, such as Criollitas or Chocolinas - with which years later the "chocotorta" was invented.
From an architectural point of view, the image of the Bagley cookie factory changed over the decades, until it stopped operating in 2004, when it passed into the hands of the multinational Danone, which moved its production to the San Luis city of Villa Mercedes.
Since 2005, with the help of the firm Copelle S.A. and the Lopatin Arquitectos Studio, a project was developed to refunctionalize the mythical factory, which became a compact volume with marked horizontality. The result was the recycling and expansion of two existing buildings belonging to the old factory, with the aim of transforming these factory spaces into modern spaces for housing and commercial use. The existing buildings, designed for industrial use, are defined by large concrete slabs that result in spaces with large spans and heights. The Foundation building was recycled and expanded to 3 basements and 7 floors. In the Hesperidina building, the ground floor and the two upper floors were remodeled; while the basement preserves part of the old factory of this drink. Both buildings, with access from Hornos Street, are linked to a large parking lot.
On the structures of what was one of the most iconic factories in our city and the country, today we find the advancement and refunctionalization of modernity, without leaving too many traces of what it was.