Photos: YoelResidente, oswaldo bautista, Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
The Casa Boker is a well-known landmark in the City’s Historic Center. Remarkably, it’s also a continuously functioning hardware store that dates from the late 19th century.
The store originally opened in 1865 during the brief rein of Maxmiliano. At the time, German was officially a second language in Mexico. Roberto Boker and his brother arrived from their hometown of Remschied in Germany. Other brothers had arrived in Moscow, Buenos Aires, and New York in the preceding years (1862-63) to ply the same trade.
The Rhine-Ruhr region is known for its engineering and toolmaking industries. The products from there were just what the new store intended to provide. They also sold Singer sewing machines and related goods, and even men’s clothing. The Boker family, though, had been making and selling tools in Germany since 1640.
The building we see today was officially dedicated by President Porfirio Diaz in 1900. The store originally occupied the whole thing. The architects were De Lemos and Cordes from New York. They also designed the original Macy’s department store. A fourth Mexican generation of the Boker family still operates the business.
The building was damaged by fire in 1975. The following year, after being restored, part of it was leased to the Sanborns company. They operate a restaurant and department store there to this day.
One can still visit the much smaller hardware store. Sanborns makes some other parts of the historic building visible from within the restaurant and department store. It’s a vital part of the City’s Historic Center but it’s also a reminder that Mexico City’s business community goes back a long way. Along with the Casino Español, practically next door, it’s a good example of the architecture of the Porfirato period.