History of the building

The Ceremines family residence is located at number 14 Saint Teresa Street in Xerta. The building dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, though it is known that its owner Mr. Ramón Martí Tomás (1849-1907) had the interior redecorated in a modernist style in 1887.

Origins of the name “Casa Ceremines”

The name “Ceremines” comes from the nickname given to the family due to the fact that their business was grain trading using river transport (this profession used to be called ”river master”). This business was directed by the patriarch of the family, Antoni Joan Martí Casas, trading up and down the River Ebro using typical Mediterranean boats called “laúdes”. It is also said that the name comes from the word “celemines”, an old unit of measurement for corn-measuring or land-measuring. However, the ancestral home of “Ceremines” is situated at nearby number 36 Carrer del Angel.

The Building

The building is composed of a Ground Floor, Main Floor and Loft. Part of the façade continues into a blind alley. The ground level of the front of the house is rendered simulating blocks of stone. The main entrance with base block of stone and protective stone-piling is formed by lowered overarching and modernist style woodwork. To the left of the main door there is a large window protected by a beautiful wrought iron grate forged with the superimposed initials RM (= Owner: Ramon Martí) in the centre of a circle. On the first floor there is a long balcony in front of the two great windows of the grand salon of the house. There are three smaller balconies looking over the alley and the wall is rendered simulating padded blocks of stone. The loft is separated by a small cornice above which there are continuous semi-circular blind arches with fascia, containing small elliptical spaces on vertical axis. The eave is constructed with cornice brackets. The roof is covered by traditional tiling.

The modernist style is predominating inside the building. Actually, there is a clear confluence of stately and modernist styles; the clearest example is the stained-glass door in the entrance hall. The extraordinary formation of glass panes make up different coloured flowers on this door and correspond to the axis of symmetry of those on the other side. In the study and in different rooms of the ground floor, stone arches forming part of the original structure from the 17th century are still preserved. The grand staircase contains modernist elements although, before the 1887 remodeling, the stairs and the balustrade were of stone. Among others, the most characteristic room is the Grand Salon, where most of the original furniture is still conserved. This room is of a more classical style, where the wallpaper merits special attention and the high ceiling with wood-paneling decorated with motifs of plant-life. Here different local events and celebrations of the bourgeoisie were held. It is said that King Alfonso XIII was served dinner in this room in 1912 following the opening ceremony of the canal on the left of the River Ebro.

The typical hand-made hydraulic cement tiles (mosaic tiles) of that era are found mainly on the first floor of the building, together with the finely decorated high ceilings and doors of enormous dimensions. A curious element concerning the doors is that each door had its own key (only a few still exist) cut in the form of the number of the room with its own corresponding lock.

Before the Civil War, there was a small room used as a chapel dedicated to Saint Angel, as this was the family’s sacred protector.

Behind the building there is another hallway which was clearly annexed at a later date (during the first decade of the 20th Century). It is a large gallery which functioned as a living room on the first floor, ventilated by large windows formed by semi-circular arches, decorated with coloured window-panes on the upper part. This gallery protrudes from the façade forming a porch below and is supported by columns with prominent capitals.

At the rear of the building, there used to be a garden similar to that of the family’s nearby summer residence called Villa Retiro (Xerta), but in smaller proportions. There was also an oil mill and a walled off vegetable garden that limited the north with the house, the south with the River Ebro’s right-side canal, the east with the houses in Carrer del Angel and the west with Avgda. Martí Martí. The vegetable garden has now been fragmented and is in the process of urbanization. On the left side of the rear of the building there is an interior patio with a well in the middle. The patio leads onto a covered frontenis court, which existed at the time. It also used to lead to the lower parts of the servants house although this was pulled down some years ago due to its bad state of repair.

The Owners

In 1884 Ramón Martí Tomás came back to his home village, after successfully increasing his family fortune with his brothers in Argentina. He got married and bought the house and grounds from Ignacio de Ramón Aiguaviva, descendant of the well-known Ramón Family of Tortosa who were also renowned land-owners in possession of the noble title of Sentis. It is therefore easy to deduce that this estate had previously been in the hands of the renowned Bishop Sentís. Three years after this purchase, remodeling took place that changed the style of the building.

The Martí Family was an important family in Xerta who made its fortune by trading. As previously mentioned the patriarch of the family, Antoni Joan Martí, was a trader and owned a boat company commercializing in grain. In about 1870, three of his children (Jaime, Ramón and Fernando) emigrated to Argentina to find their fortune. In 1873 they founded the trading company “Martí Brothers” in Buenos Aires, through which they exported oil, wine, spirits, conserves and perfumes in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay together with several other South American countries. They participated with shares in great banks and other companies and owned an important footwear business in Buenos Aires with 1.400 employees where they also manufactured trunks and boxes.

An English publication in the year 1911 called “20th Century Impressions of the Argentinean Republic” describes this footwear factory: “The Martí Brothers. Under their management, this grand business has become without doubt the most prominent and important company in South America. With its installations, staff and production it is on a level with similar well-known entities in Europe and North America. The factory belonging to the Martí Brothers has been established in a comfortable building (…), that covers an entire block. It is situated in 462 Catamarca Street and is made up of three floors, storage facilities and work-shops divided in various sections. The work-shops have been set up with the most perfect machines of this type. There are 500 employees, increased by 700 people who work from their own homes doing preparatory and non-skilled tasks. There is also an independent work-shop in the same building where 200 women are exclusively dedicated to the sawing and manufacturing section, jobs that are also done mechanically. The Administration Department has approximately 100 employees and reaches 120 including office workers. The offices are located at 1097-1099 Victoria Street, where there is a permanent exhibition of samples as the centre point for the comfort of buyers (…). The capital stock of the company amounts to $1.600.000 and their commercial transactions annually amount to around 3,000,000. This important and progressive enterprise was founded in 1873 by Fernando Martí and his brothers, naturals from Cherta, Spain”.

The family’s lands and estates in Xerta included: Collades de Barón, La Puntalta, San Antonio Garden, The Perera Spring (also known as The Ceremines Spring)… They also possessed properties in different regions of Catalonia, and above all in Argentina where they owned great areas of land in Bahía Blanca, various properties in Buenos Aires and other points of the Argentine geography. As time went by, each brother took over a specific branch of the business and when Ramón Martí returned to his home village, he chose the olive oil side as the both the suppliers and the factory were located in Xerta (the original warehouses were on the old main road and later became the local Agricultural Cooperative Society, now demolished). He commercialized the oil under three different names: “Vaca”, “Somos” and “El León” and used the river boats (laúdes) to transport the boxes loaded with tins and bottles to the local sea-port, later to be loaded onto steam boats sailing to Buenos Aires.

On 25th November, 1907, Ramón Martí died in a railway accident occurred when the Barcelona-Valencia Express on which he was travelling crossed the dilapidated Riudecanyes River Bridge (between Mont-Roig del Camp and Cambrils). The bridge collapsed causing 22 victims and 49 injured (the 100th anniversary of this tragic accident has recently been commemorated). This event caused an important upheaval for the family which consequently affected their businesses. The brand name of the oil business was changed to “Widow of Ramon Martí Olive Oils” and Ramon Martí’s widow, Josefa Martí Alcoverro and her elder sons took over the business. According to an article in the newspaper “Gaceta de Madrid” dated May 1920 concerning approved tender applications for the export of a total of 20.000 tons of olive oil, situated among the most important producers and exporters in the country, “Widow of Ramon Martí Olive Oils” was allowed to export 550.000 kgs.

It seems that at the end of the 1920’s the company “Martí Brothers.” went into decline as a result of the profound economical crisis in Argentina. Besides this, there were different family disputes generated by the separation of the different businesses that had originally made up the company and also the generation change within the family had negative effects. Not long after, the 1929 “crack” in New York was to affect the world economical situation.

During the 1930’s the descendants of the Martí brothers in Xerta created a laboratory for the production of perfumes and soaps called “ER and O Martí Laboratories”. One of the most widely used ingredients was the lavender cultivated on one of the family estates.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the factories were closed down and part of the family moved to San Sebastian and others went into exile in Italy. The family home was left empty and unattended and was looted. Soldiers occupied the house sometime later establishing it as provisional headquarters for soldiers.

At the end of the war, the Martí family came back to Xerta and went into decline as they had no capacity to restore the empire that they had dominated in previous years; times had changed. During the post-war years part of the lands and estates were sold, thus swallowing up the great patrimony that the family had once accumulated. At the end of the 1980’s, the house was eventually sold off by the family. The building was remodeled and once again changed hands. The present owner continues with the constant preservation work that these buildings require, therefore, they are in good condition. They have recently been reformed to locate a Hotel.



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