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13 de Maio, Park, Recife

 13 de Maio Park and the Faculty of Law were declared sites of historic preservation.

13 de Maio, Park, Recife

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 24/03/2020

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The first public parks in Brazil were influenced by European landscape artists. They were mirrored on the models of the beautiful French and English gardens, which sought to value the regional flora and ensure a better quality of life for people.

During the period of Dutch occupation in Pernambuco (1630-1654), Count Maurício de Nassau built a Renaissance garden in Recife, with about 6 hectares – the Friburgo Palace Park – which was the first in the country, and contained various species of animals as well as a botanical garden with exotic plants.

This park was located in today’s Republic Square, in the space where the Santa Isabel Theatre was built.

Until 1880, when the Riachuelo lagoon was reclaimed in the Boa Vista neighbourhood, the lands that are now part of Parque 13 Maio belonged to Ilha do Rato, an accidental fluvial-marine landform of uncertain contours. On the south side of the island, mangroves and mudflats lay unused. This land was called the 13 May Public Promenade.

In 1860, the English engineer William Martineau came up with the first design for the construction of a park. In it was included the space for the Recife Faculty of Law’s garden and the lands that extend from there to the Princess Isabel Bridge. The design adopted a geometric style, dividing the area of the park in four gardens full of vegetation, with patios, flowerbeds and fountains.

In 1875, it is documented that the French engineer Emile Beringuer also created another design for the park. It is known that it contained at least an iron bandstand and aquarium. According to experts, the design resembled some beautiful European parks, such as the Parc Monceau in Paris, and others in Lisbon and Brussels.

During the General Barbosa Lima government (1892-1896), the construction of 13 de Maio Garden began. However, it was only on the occasion of the 3rd National Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Recife, that the city council decided to improve the aspect of the deserted field, building on the site the 13 de Maio Park. It is worth noting that this was due to the pressure of journalists, writers and businessmen, arguing that public green spaces contributed not only to the beauty of cities but also to the health and spiritual elevation of individuals.

It should be noted that, although it is not the oldest, 13 de Maio Park is the first historical urban park in Recife. It was inaugurated as such on 30 August 1939, measuring 6.9 hectares, located in a very central area of the city. At that time, Burle Marx was one of the country’s most celebrated landscapers in environmental artistic production, and was also in charge of designing the park’s first public gardens.

There, one can see varied vegetation containing trees, tropical herbs and shrubs. In the park were planted palm trees, imperial palms, fan palms, Brazilian sticks, flamboyants, acacias, ficus, ipe, as well as fruit trees such as jackfruit, mango, sapodilla, rose apple trees, avocado trees and many others.

On its lampposts are mythological chimeras: figures with the head and bust of a woman, wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. There are also recreational equipment for children and adolescents, such as swings and slides.

In the 1940s, a traditional restaurant was built there – the Tower of London – which was shaped like a tower and whose kitchen was considered to be of good quality. This restaurant was later closed. In the 1950s, a quarter of the area of the park was used for the construction of the Pernambuco Public Library, as well as four public schools.

At the entrance to the Park, you can read a plaque with the following words:

This park, whose first design dates from 1865, was built in 1939, under the government of Agamenon Magalhães, by the mayor Novais Filho, for the solemnities of the 3rd National Eucharistic Congress.

In addition, it is possible to observe the bust of Joaquim José de Faria Neves Sobrinho (1872-1927), one of the founders of the Pernambuco Academy of Letters, with a plaque on its pedestal that reads:

Homage from the people of Pernambuco to the poet Faria Neves Sobrinho. Erected in the Barbosa Lima Sobrinho administration. 1951

 Created in bronze by the artist Bibiano Silva, there are also the busts of Dantas Barreto (with a stone pedestal and a vertical sword), and the historian Francisco Augusto Pereira da Costa.

In 1973 and 1976, there were some reforms undertaken. In addition to a mini zoo, 13 de Maio Park received two concrete sculptures made by Abelardo da Hora: the sugarcane syrup seller, and two seated Northeast sertanejos [country musicians] playing guitar. In the 1980s, for the sake of user safety and as a measure of protection against the vandalism that 13 de Maio Park had been suffering, the place was enclosed by an iron fence.

Finally, it should be noted that, according to the municipal legislation of 1979, 13 de Maio Park and the Faculty of Law were declared sites of historic preservation.


Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.

sources consulted

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

RIBEIRO, Ana Rita Sá Carneiro. O projeto paisagístico, as funções e o uso dos parques urbanos – o Parque 13 de Maio. CLIO Revista do Programa de Pós-Graduação em História da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, n. 18, p. 17-25, 1998.

ROCHA, Tadeu. Roteiros do Recife: Olinda e Guararapes. 3. ed. Recife: Gráfica Ipanema, 1967

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Parque 13 de maio (Recife, PE). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em:dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009