Page:Appleton's Guide to Mexico.djvu/209

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reason that the heavier buildings might settle so much as to render them unsafe. The early Spanish historians narrate that, before the Conquest, the valley of Mexico was covered with dense forests. The foreign invaders made war on these forests, as did the Puritans in New England, and to-day, with the exception of the magnificent grove of Chapultepec, there are only a few rows of trees of recent growth along the causeways.[1]

The houses in the capital are built of heavy masonry, with stairways of stone, and with roofs and floors of brick and cement. Each building includes one or more open court-yards, or patios. These patios are either paved with flag-stones, or planted with flowers and shrubbery, and adorned with fountains and statuary. In the suburbs the dwellings do not generally exceed one story in height, but in the heart of the city they frequently rise to three. The entrance of each house from the street is by a single port cochère, which is closed at night, and attended by a porter, who occupies an adjoining room, and who is held responsible for the entries and exits.

The capital is virtually fire-proof, it being next to impossible to set fire to a Mexican house.

In dwellings of more than one story, the upper floor, on account of the higher ceilings, is always preferred as a residence, although it commands the highest rents. The ground-floor is commonly occupied for business purposes—e. g., for stables, store-houses, or workshops.

There are no aristocratic streets nor quarters in the City of Mexico, the homes of both the upper and lower

  1. The Mexican Government has recently made a contract with Oscar A. Drorge to plant 2,000,000 trees in the valley of Mexico within four years, 500,000 a year, for $200,000. The contractor agrees to put in annually 80,000 ash, 35,000 willows, 12,000 poplars, 60,000 eucalypti, 60,000 acacias, and other varieties, in plantations of from 50,000 to 100,000; and to receive in his nurseries three graduates annually of the Agricultural School.