In 1918 aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont built his summer retreat on a small hillside in the center of the city of Petropolis. He selection of a rather steep and unlikely piece of land for a home was a testament to his ingenuity. From the external staircase that requires one to begin right foot first to the internal staircase for which one must begin left foot first, Alberto Santos-Dumont’s eccentricities pervade the residence. Known in Paris as “le petit Santos”, Alberto Santos-Dumont built a house as diminutive as his stature and as eccentric as his personality.
Alberto Santos-Dumont, the youngest son of an enormously successful coffee producer referred to as the Coffee King of Brazil, is considered by many to be the true father of aviation, having set the first flight record recognized by the International Aeronautic Federation in 1906. His flights that year were filmed and witnessed by hundreds in Paris. Alberto Santos-Dumont is also credited with popularizing the wristwatch. Previously unheard of, the wristwatch so common today was developed by jeweler Louis Cartier for his trend-setting friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, to facilitate time-keeping while in flight.
Around the corner from his summer home is a replica of Santos-Dumont’s fist flying machine, in the plaza named after that aircraft, 14 Bis.