Vila Maria Zélia was the first model village in Brazil. Inaugurated in 1917, it was the brainchild of the industrialist Jorge Street, built to house the workers of the Companhia Nacional de Tecidos da Juta, a jute sack factory.
The architect in charge of the project based it on early 20th century European cities. The village was like a small city in itself, with two schools (one for boys and one for girls), grocery store, a church and other facilities for the workers and their families.
Due to economic problems in the 1920s and 1930s, the company declared bankruptcy, and Vila Maria Zélia came under the custody of the Brazilian federal government. Since then, some of the buildings, such as the schools, have been closed down and abandoned. The church is still in use, however, and there are still 200 houses in use by some 600 people living in the village.
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