Salt House Ventorrillo de La Dolores

The salt houses served as housing for the foreman and his family, since the salt lakes were isolated from the urban centres and required continuous activity for the management of gates depending on the height of the tide. In addition, at the time of harvesting the salt, they had to accommodate the necessary workers as well as shelter the mules, donkeys and work tools used for the collection and transport of salt. This shelter consisted of halls, stables and hayloft in order to avoid contact with moisture. Its construction was adapted to the conditions of strong winds and instability of the land, so thick walls were built which were reinforced with buttresses. There was also high insolation in the salt pans, as small windows were built and the walls were whitewashed. Moreover, a small garden and small animal pen were given to the family. A tank was also provided in order to collect rainwater and therefore have drinking water.

The Ventorrillo de la Dolores is one of the most unique salt houses in the Bay of Cadiz, with an impressive entrance topped by three merlons, a front garden and a road with increasingly eroded cobblestones. The construction itself is of the so-called ‘houses with a yard´ according to the classification that Suárez Japón made in his book La Casa Salinera of the Bay of Cadiz to differentiate them from what he calls ‘a block’. Its main characteristic is a small yard that, as with its namesakes in the urban area, does not always occupy the same space within the structures. In the case of La Dolores, it works as a link between the main section and the rear, with a sloping roof that was probably used as a stable and haystack. In this courtyard, two of the tanks of the houses attached to the western and southern-facing walls can be found, with two staircases to access the water tank, essential for survival in the area.

The main section is distributed in two horizontal rows of rooms separated by a partition that disappears in the eastern end, to give rise to a larger space. According to the examples offered by Suárez Japón, this larger space should be used as a workers’ lounge, a shelter for those who were seasonally hired for the extraction of the precious mineral. The toilet can still be identified, with a bathroom at the end of a very narrow room which is accessed through an arch, and the familiar wooden beams that eventually collapse, although chains are still hung to hold the wood. Unlike the back building, all of the domestic areas have a roof or roof terrace with the typical finishes of the popular island architecture, as well as a front garden where there are fewer and fewer palm trees.

The later section has a pitched roof, where there is nothing left from the original structure of woodwork covered by tiles, which will have been replaced by another metal at some point in the twentieth century. It has three thick pillars that support, in turn, the main beam that would separate the two floors of the section. The presence of these two floors is evident thanks to the series of holes in the wall from which the beams of the non-existent roof started, as well as the two parallel lines of windows, illuminating each of the floors.
To the west of the block, a small wall surrounds the perimeter of the animal pen. In its interior, there are remains of beds, where at the time, they had to grow products from the garden. You can also find a drinking trough where the animals used to drink from. Some of these animals, such as donkeys, were an essential part of the industry until they were replaced by rails and wagons; others, such as chickens or rabbits were also necessary for residents´ survival.

The materials and construction techniques present clear parallels both with their namesakes of the Bay and with those built in the old town of the island, during the second half of the 19th century, in which there was a boom for the salt industry. There are masonry walls based on oyster stone and mortar, as these simple constructions do not seek aesthetic brilliance but functionality, strictly related to the work of the marsh. However, as often happens in these cases, the door and window frames do have present a more brick-based appearance, that were also covered with innumerable layers of mortar and lime.

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