As Calle Florida became an elegant shopping district in the late 19th century, Francisco Seeber and Emilio Bunge were the main shareholders in the proposed Bon Marché Argentino, inspired by Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II. Unfortunately, their French investors backed out, but Seeber resurrected the project by 1894 as the Galería Florida.
One of the era’s biggest buildings, with a double basement and four upper stories, it covered an entire city block bounded by Florida, Avenida Córdoba, San Martín, and Viamonte. In 1908, though, the British-run Ferrocarril de Buenos Aires al Pacífico acquired the Córdoba  side for business offices; within two years it controlled the rest of the building. It later passed to Ferrocarriles Argentinos, the state railroad enterprise created by Juan Perón in 1948.
Meanwhile, in 1945, Argentine artists gave the cupola its most dramatic feature: 450 square meters of murals, including Lino Spilimbergo’s El Dominio de las Fuerzas Naturales (the Dominion of Natural Forces), Demetrio Urruchúa’s La Fraternidad (Brotherhood), Juan Carlos Castagnino’s La Vida Doméstica (Domestic Life), Manuel Colmeiro’s La Pareja Humana (The Human Couple), and Antonio Berni’s El Amor (Love). Linked to Mexican muralist Davíd Alfaro Siqueiros, all belonged to the socially conscious Nuevo Realismo (New Realism) movement.
For most of the 1980s the Galerías languished until, in 1992, the murals became a highlight of a newly fashionable shopping center—appropriately enough, its original purpose. Well worth a visit even for anticonsumers, the Galerías (www.galeriaspacifico.com.ar ) offers free guided tours at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays from the street-level information desk. On the basement level, it has a fine food court and the city’s best public toilets.