The Old Arsenal is the only colonial military building of its type in Brazil, with original 17th-century Portuguese characteristics, and is the oldest building in Santos
Built between 1640 and 1656 as a depository for war items, that is, weapons and equipment to protect the then Vila de Santos from attacks by pirates and Indians, the Old Arsenal is the headquarters of the Tourist Fort Circuit.
With a flight of 21 steps of differing widths, the external staircase was built in such a way as to make access difficult for anyone invading the building, since this is the only access to the upper floor. The irregular sizes meant that any invaders lost balance and fell down the stairs if they tried to run up the steps.
The building has had the same architecture since 1738. The stone doorways are from the time it was built (mid-17th century) and the walls, 90 and 95 cm thick, were made from a mixture of stone, shell lime powder and whale oil. The three layers of tiles made the roof extremely strong.
The flooring on the first floor is original, made from wood from the region and installed according to the Portuguese fitting technique, without the use of screws, nails or glue.
In the principal ground-floor room, a large horizontal panel shows a timeline in three parts, explaining the main events of the period from 1490 to 1822, in Portugal, Brazil and São Paulo.
The Fort room shows how the rich the region is in military constructions. Here you can find the first fort built in Brazil – Saint John Fort, in Bertioga (1532) – and the last one, Andrades Fort, in Guarujá (1942).
Maria Inah Rangel Room
A space for temporary exhibitions, the Maria Inah Rangel Room, on the 1st floor, has original stone window sills. It is the only room with windows overlooking the sea and hills, manned night and day in the past by guards. The room is named after a local restorer and artist who was active in the recovery of the artistic, historical and architectural heritage of Santos. Responsible for the preservation and restoration of the art collection in the City Hall, she died in 2009, at the age of 55.
A national heritage site since 1940, the Old Arsenal building has been a Military Shooting Training Center, school, electoral center, Army Subsistence Service and Youth Center. The building was restored and modernized in 2009.