Santos Dumont, the father of aviation

When I was high school (in the US) I remember learning about the Wright brothers, and how they were the first to fly.  Wrong! The first person to invent and fly an airplane was Brazil’s most famous aviator, Santos Dumont the true ‘Father of Aviation‘. In 1906 he was the first to fly, ie take off and land under his own power (unlike the Wright brothers, who used a catapult for takeoff on their first flight at Kitty Hawk).  Known as the ‘Enchanted’ or ‘Charmed’ house, Casa Santos Dumont, a small three story summer house was built into the cliffs of Petropolis in 1918.  Isn’t it cute?

Besides the large lettering spelling out CASA SANTOS DUMONT, at the entrance you will see the famous staircase designed by Santos Dumont himself. Due to the inclination angle, and to prevent tripping, he suppressed one side of each step (so considerate of him!). Pay your entrance fee of R$5 (US$2.45) on the first floor which was his original workshop area, then get ready to make your way up the funky ladder (above), which forces you to always start your climb with your right foot.

 When I entered I was a bit surprised to see how small the house was inside! As you can see from the picture above the main level (his ‘studio’) has his personal memorabilia on display; the medallions he earned for his many flight projects; photos, books, and letters; and the Brazilian flag he carried with him on every flight. Random Fact: The house has no kitchen! He didn’t need one because he received all of meals from the Palace Hotel (the current Catholic University of Petropolis, across the street). Talk about living in style!

On the second floor (which is accessible by a vertical ladder) is his bedroom/desk (he worked a lot) and bathroom.  It is the original bathroom he created which contains the original, first hot water shower in Brazil, heated by alcohol (see above).  Could you live in a house like this?

From this 3rd level you can walk across a bridge which leads to a cultural center and provides access to the roof level where there is an observatory deck.  It is said he would spend hours up there watching the stairs.
Fun Fact: Dumont invented the wrist watch! When he was flying he needed a watch at hand so he tied his pocket watch with a scarf to his wrist. He later he took the idea to his jeweler friend Cartier in Paris, who developed the first wrist strap. The Paris design house still comes out with a new watch design every year named “Santos.”

Casa de Santos Dumont is located on Rua de Encanto, 22 Centro,  and open every day 930am-5pm

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