Merida, Yucatan — One of Las Casas Cámara, better known as the Casas Gemelas (Twin Houses), can be yours for a cool US$18 million.

The ornate European-style mansions are among the most iconic symbols of Merida’s gilded age. The one to the north, or to the right from the Paseo de Montejo, is the one that’s gone on the market.

They were built at the beginning of the 20th century by Manuel Cantón with architectural plans brought from France by two brothers, Ernesto and Camilo Cámara Zavala.

Local hacienda owners, made wealthy by then-lucrative sisal plantations, bought up streetside properties in the late 1800s and early 1900s along the boulevard, inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

The regal homes were built on the Paseo de Montejo between calles 45 and 43. It is one of the first landmarks to be found when walking from the Centro Histórico.

They’re not strictly identical twins. The south house has a third floor under a mansard roof. Its front door is graced by a curved wrought iron canopy. The house listed for sale contains Spanish architectural elements, such as a terraced second floor and windows with ornate blinds.

Most mansions on the paseo have passed on to commercial uses, but the twins have always been private homes. Hotelier Fernando Barbachano listed the sale of the mansion, according to local media reports.

The home has 10 bedrooms and eight bathrooms and has more than 32,392 square feet of living space on a 13,477 square-foot lot.

The Beaux-Arts design was created by the French architect Gustave Umbdenstock, who also built the famous Pont du Carrousel among other icons of Parisian architecture. Carrara marble columns, ironwork and stained glass windows were made in France and imported before the house was completed in 1911. That’s one year after the end of the Porfiriato era and the start of the Mexican Revolution, which somehow the homes survived.

Before it was built, the house plans won first prize for urban home architecture at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair.

Original furniture, art objects and fixtures, all chosen by Umbdenstock, are included in the price.

During the Porfiriato, artists, poets, and writers held lively cultural events at the Barbachano house.  Later in the 20th century, the house hosted distinguished guests such as Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Princess Grace, as well as Jacqueline Kennedy, then wife of John F. Kennedy.

Since 1982, Mérida’s historic center is protected by strict preservation laws that limit usage and modification of homes like these. In a 2014 interview with a local newspaper, heiress Maruja Barbachano Herrero proposed the possible donation of her property to the city so that it might be opened to the public as a museum of the Porfiriato era. No actions were taken to make that concept a reality.

The home was listed for US$20 million in 2018.

See the listing, from Caldwell Banker, here.


Yucatán Expat Life is a news and information source for people who love it here. Sign up for YEL's free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.