José Álvarez de Sousa Soares was born in 1846 and died in 1911 at the age of 65. His father was a doctor and his mother, a pharmacist. They both followed the family tradition of going into medicine that went back to the 18th century and Soares oriented his studies in the same direction. The death of his parents when he was still very young led him to earn his living in Brazil where his brother was, because he had been left without resources. He settled in Pelotas where he studied botany and chemistry. There, he had the idea of using the Brazilian plant called cambará in the manufacture of a medicine he invented and registered under the name “Peitoral de Cambará”. It turned out to be a great success in the medical community and with the public, and allowed its inventor to make a large fortune within a few years. With his newly gained fortune he built a park called “Parque de Sousa Soares” that is now absorbed in the area of the city. There he built a primary school, which was visited by Princess D. Isabel, the Redeemer and her son D. Pedro, and was later called Escola do Príncipe do Grão-Pará. A convinced abolitionist, he freed his slaves during a public ceremony that had great relevance, guaranteeing their future. The Directorate-General for Public Hygiene of the State of Rio Grande do Sul granted him the official equivalent of a doctor and the government of Brazil officially recognized him as an industrial-pharmaceutical. He married in Brazil and had 8 children, but after the premature death of his wife, he decided to return to O Porto and continue his business from there while the older children were left in charge of the company in Pelotas.
Back in Portugal, he founded in O Porto the industrial establishment of pharmaceutical products “A sociedade medicinal de Sousa Soares”, of which the Pelotas establishment became the subsidiary. It was then that she met Maria da Assunçao Teixeira Leite Cardoso Brochado’s cousin (1874-1956), also known as our beloved Viscountess. Judging from the time, I would dare to say that it was an agreed marriage of convenience. When they married she was over 26 years old and in 54, they had been married for 10 years, with 10 children, plus his 8 children. In total, there were 18 children, (that’s why there are 20 holes in the model of the pantheon). During the early years of their marriage, the couple lived in O Porto until the Viscount asked his father-in-law to expand his house, the Marmoiral house (Patrimony of the parish). He declined and gave him a piece of land to build his own house. It was then in 1906 that the Santa Cruz house was inaugurated. The title of Viscount was granted to him by King Carlos in 1904, years later. Taking advantage of his power and influence, Soares demanded that the train pass through his parish, a few meters from his house, to be exact. And that is how the rail journey from Porto was inaugurated in 1906, thanks to the Viscount.
In 1911, at the age of 65 the Viscount died of an unknown cause, leaving the Viscountess in charge of the three companies based in Pelotas, O Porto and Paris. Some of the children kept the family business going, but it was the Viscountess who kept all the accounts (this can be seen by all the account books and bills that are in the house in her name) and handled a large amount of money. For that particular time, she was a very cultured woman, since she could read Spanish, French, Italian and even German. She personally organized meetings in the Santa Cruz house to conduct her business. In this same house, important historical events were held, such as the inauguration of the electric light in 1928, where famous illustrious of the time met. The house was always known as “La casa de la Vizcondesa,” not because the husband spent long periods abroad, seeing as he died 4 years after building the house, but because it was her alone who took the family and the companies forward at that time, leading them to become what they are today. A business woman in the middle of a World War.
So, knowing all this, we wonder what could have led to the house being completely abandoned. Well, unfortunately these are things that only the family could tell us, but as far as I know, the grandson refused to sell the house to people outside the family, leaving him in a sorry state. We can see that the children had clear intentions of dividing up the assets we can see it because all the furniture in the house is listed, but over the course of time, things happened that led to no one coming to collect said items or take charge of the house … Thus, it was completely forgotten. Out of all his children, it is worth mentioning Torquato Brochado de Sousa Soares, a medievalist and university professor, who, after some years and when the Viscountess died, inherited the Santa Cruz y Marmoiral house, that his son Affonso owns today.
Now, 112 years later, we can only go through each room imagining everything that was. The decisions that were made in that house, all the lives that were created and the lives that were lost, the bad, and perhaps some not so bad, times of the era. Until eventually at some point in time, between arrivals and departures, one of them was the last to close that door forever, never to be opened again.