Ninth of July Park
History and overview
Economic growth in the Argentine Northwest city of Tucumán, as in cities nationwide, created the need for unprecedented urban improvements during the late nineteenth century. The first public official to rally to this need was the Minister of Education of the Province of Tucumán, Alberto León Soldati, who in 1898 proposed the creation of an extensive green space such as those under development in Buenos Aires, Rosario and Córdoba, the nation's three largest cities. Tucumán's need for a modern recreational park was especially prescient, as the city was then still limited by a colonial grid of narrow streets and its relative isolation.
Elected Senator for his province, Soldati commissioned the Parks Director for the city of Buenos Aires, French Argentine urbanist Charles Thays, to create a central public park for Tucumán. Thays drafted plans for a 400 hectare (1000 acre) green space to the east of the city, on which work began in 1906. Following the purchase of the remaining needed land, work accelerated on the project and the park was inaugurated on July 9, 1916, the centennial of the Argentine Declaration of Independence.
The inaugurated park was a 100 hectare (250 acre) segment centered around Bishop José Colombres' historic residence. Father Colombres introduced sugarcane to Tucumán in 1821, and the crop quickly became the province's economic mainstay (it still is its predominant agricultural crop). Lake San Miguel (named in honor of the city's patron saint) and a rose garden were created to the south of the historic residence, common denominators to most of Thays' public parks. The founder and first President of the University of Tucumán, Doctor Juan Bautista Terán, purchased 20 cast iron, glazed sculptures in France for the park and the planned Liberal Arts campus therein, opened in 1914. Later additions included a campground, a topiary sun dial, the Tucumán Lawn Tennis Club, the Municipal Cultural Center and Sports Complex, the University's Odontology and Physics campuses and the Nasif Estéfano Speedway.
The southern three-fourths of the park was never completed, however. The parkland south of Lake San Miguel was gradually replaced facilities such as the Tucumán Hippodrome and a public orphanage built by the Eva Perón Foundation (opened in person by the first lady in 1950). The 1956 expropriation of 466 hectares (1183 acres) for the construction of Matienzo Airport included most of the remaining, incomplete southern portion, and dashed plans to recover the remainder of the park. The airport was relocated to an eastern, suburban location in 1986, after which the runway and terminal were converted to the Metropolitan Long-distance Bus Terminal.
Ninth of July Park continues to host Independence Day parades on its namesake date, often with the attendance of the President of Argentina. Its considerable cultural patrimony is currently undergoing renovations, and the park is being studied by UNESCO for a possible bestowment of their recognition as a World Heritage Site.