The 17th-century core of this historic town, founded by the French and occupied by the Dutch before coming under Portuguese rule, has preserved the original rectangular street plan. A number of fine historic buildings have survived, making this an outstanding example of an Iberian colonial town.
Historic Center of São Luís
São Luís lies on the west side of São Luís Island on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Brazil. The town was formerly called São Luiz do Maranhão, or simply Maranhão. São Luís Island is actually a long, narrow peninsula between the drowned mouths of the Mearim and Itapicuru rivers.
The town was founded in 1612 by Daniel de la Touche de la Ravardière, a French naval officer, and named in honor of Louis XIII. It was captured in 1615 by the Portuguese and from 1641 to 1644 it was held by the Dutch.
The Historic Center of São Luís, the late 17th-century core of this historic Brazilian town has preserved the original rectangular street plan in its entirety.
Thanks to a period of economic stagnation in the early 20th century, an exceptional number of fine historic buildings have survived, making this an outstanding example of an Iberian colonial town.
The Historic Center of São Luís is an outstanding example of a Portuguese colonial town adapted to the climatic conditions of equatorial South America. Many buildings, such as the Palace of Justice, preserve much of the Portuguese colonial atmosphere.
The town is characterized by its urban grid of streets lined with residential buildings of various heights, many with tiled roofs, painted ornamented cornices, tall narrow windows set in decorated surrounds and balconies with forged or cast iron railings.
They date from the 1615 plan laid out by Portugal's chief engineer in Brazil, following conquest of the fort that had been established on the site by the French in 1612.
Harmoniously expanded through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the historic center of São Luís is an outstanding example of a Portuguese colonial town adapted to the climatic conditions of Equatorial America, with traditional Portuguese architecture adapted to incorporate raised piers and shuttered, wooden verandas.