Known to generations of São Paulo residents as Castelinho da Rua Apa, or “the little castle of Apa Street,” what seems at first glance to be nothing more than the crumbling façade of an eccentric home is actually the site of a notorious murder mystery.
Commissioned in 1912, the Castelinho da Rua Apa was built in the Santa Efigênia neighborhood — at the time one of the most noble areas of the city. Designed to resemble a medieval castle, patriarch Dr. Virgílio Cézar dos Reis had the family manor built as a gift to his wife, Maria Cândida Guimarães dos Reis. After moving into the castle, the couple would go on to have two sons, Alvaro and Armando. Like oil and water, the two brothers couldn’t be more different; the former was a lawyer and professional ice skater known for being an outgoing playboy, while Armando was more introspective, preferring to keep to himself. This difference would manifest after their father’s death in 1937, when the brothers hotly debated what to do with the family business.
Just two months later, however, both Armando, Alvaro, and their mother would be found murdered on the floor of the Castelinho.
What is known is that on the night of May 12, 1937, the family housekeeper overheard a loud noise echo from the main house, whereupon she found all three family members dead from gunshot wounds. Though the ensuing police investigation concluded that a squabble between brothers likely was to blame, the forensic evidence – several types of bullets implying multiple guns though only one was found, too many wounds for the brother “at fault” to have turned the gun on himself, etc. – didn’t line up with their portrait of the night’s events. With no surviving witnesses, the case continues to be one of the most mysterious in Brazilian history.
After all owning parties were deceased, the Castelinho became property of local authorities. For the next 70-some years, the famous house moldered. The surrounding neighborhood fell into decline, and the Castelinho became a literal and figurative haunt for São Paulo’s darker forces.
Such remained the case until the 1990s when a former homeless woman from the neighborhood, Maria Eulina, spent years petitioning the government for permission to restore the castle. In 1997, Eulina’s perseverance succeeded. In 2004, Castelinho da Rua Apa was granted landmark status, and in 2007 approval for a restoration plan was granted. Though still in a considerable state of disrepair today, restorations are scheduled to begin any time now.
In 2017, the state government invested $2.8 million and helped convert it into the headquarters of the NGO Mothers Club of Brazil, a nonprofit that helps street dwellers.