Quinta Heeren

March 28th, 2007

The Quinta Heeren is a residential housing development that was built between 1888 and 1930. The first such large scale development of its kind in Peru, it was the brainchild of Oscar Heeren, a German businessman and diplomat. On the 30,000 square metres of land on the edge of the city (now a good few kilometres inside it!), in grand style, Heeren built a self-contained community, with the open space of a main square, a public garden and even a small petting zoo. It was very suburban.

The Quinta and the surrounding is part of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Lima, but it
has not fared well in the decades since its construction. Many of its houses were abandoned in the 1930s when much of the city’s affluent population vacated the area. Over time, earthquakes, exposure to the elements, and inadequate plumbing and drainage have taken their toll. Although the Quinta is privately owned, it is rented in large part by low-income tenants who can not afford maintenance, which has only sped up the decay.

In 2003 two of the Quinta’s blocks collapsed and their tenants had to be relocated to temporary housing erected in the garden. The owner is apparently seeking to demolish the Quinta to make way for new development.

The Quinta Heeren appeared on WMF’s 1998 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites, after which a trust was created by a local tenants’ association to reverse the tide. Their aim was to encourage Lima’s Ministry of Housing to take control of the Quinta so that its water system, a major cause of damage, will become a municipal responsibility and the tenants’ association is able to obtain ownership of the residential blocks and embark on their rehabilitation.

Some areas of historic Lima are now being restored, but these efforts are primarily being focused on the areas tourists most visit, Los Barrios Altos are not one of them. There were plans to restore historic buildings in which people were also living in squalor, but such efforts have not yet got under way.

Adapted in part from World Monuments Fund’s information.

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