The Ex Fábrica de Pólvora is a historic gunpowder and explosives factory in the heart of the new Chapultepec Section 4. Today it’s a cultural center dedicated to bringing more opportunity and learning to the old Santa Fe area. The old building was among the first things to open with this section of the park. That was just in June, 2021. Since then, the center has been a meeting point, a workshop, school building, and musical backdrop and stage.
Section 4 of Chapultepec is the former Military Camp 1F. The broader neighborhood is the Colonia Lomas de Santa Fe, so named for the ravines and rough terrain extending to this side from the center of the old Pueblo de Santa Fe. Indeed, the Royal Gunpowder Factory was located here, not just for the nearby water and woods for fuel, but for the isolated and sheltered location (suitable for explosions).
Begun in 1779, the building to house the factory was finished in 1781. Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa assigned the engineer Miguel Constanzó with selecting the site. Assistance came from the famous José Antonio Alzate, the colonial-era proto-scientist and priest. Constanzó would go on to design the Ciudadela in 1793. His experience here explains much of that building’s military appearance. He’s probably most famous for having designed the Convento de la Encarnación, today’s head of the Secretary of Education.
The factory was finally dedicated in 1782. By the early 19th century, it had expanded into an entire complex. Almost a town, it included boilers and furnaces, offices, a granary, two mills, living quarters for workers, stables and a small chapel. As the main employer in the area, the factory thus served as a stronghold for both Royalist forces and Royalist support. During the revolution, Royalist forces entirely surrounded the camp and factory to protect them from the insurgency.
The factory complex would remain for nearly 200 years under the control of the Secretary of National Defense. Much of the area didn’t even appear in maps and satellite imagery. In the 2010s, with the closing of this part of the camp, developers were briefly given hope that they could privately develop more apartment towers on the land. But the announcement that Chapultepec Park would be expanded to benefit all area residents was made in 2018.
As one of the oldest structures in this part of the park, the Ex Fábrica de Pólvora became a natural focus point. Today it’s merely the first part to have opened. It was followed by the rehabilitation of the Vasco de Quiroga Hermitage. Much of the programming at the Hermitage site originates here at the Powder Factory. The Hermitage is about a 20-minute walk to the west. It’s also in a ravine, and reachable only by stairway.