“After the 1755 earthquake in downtown Lisbon, Sebastião José de Carvalho and Melo (Marquês de Pombal) had the boldness to dream and build a new city, forcing society to take a leap towards modernity influenced by the Reform Enlightenment movement”.
The reconstruction of Baixa Pombalina was carried out by a team led by the Engineer Manuel da Maia, as well as the architects Eugénio dos Santos and Carlos Mardel. In place of Terreiro do Paço, where the royal palace had been since the 16th century, a new royal square was planned facing the Tagus, in a perfect geometric layout, becoming the new official hub of the capital and the government of the country, and also the space of for the new mercantile bourgeoisie protected by Pombal.
The main trade activities in the streets of Baixa gave way to the designation of the streets by profession. Rua da Prata acquired this name because before the 1755 earthquake there existed in within the vicinity a Silversmiths’ street, a very characteristic and busy street at the time. During the years from 1760 to November 5, 1910, "Rua da Prata" was called "Rua Bela da Rainha", in memory of Queen D. Mariana Vitória (1718-1781), wife of King D. José I and daughter of Philip V of Spain.
The Commerce Square is surrounded by three identical buildings, with three floors. The ground floor has arches and is occupied with shops, the middle one has French windows with iron railings, topped by mezzanines, on the upper floor. The buildings are finished with a cornice. Each side wing of the square is rounded off with a turret, which is higher than the building.
This building has a grade listed store on the ground floor, established since about 1778 - the Café Martinho da Arcada - the oldest of Lisbon's cafes, which became a cultural landmark of Portuguese modernity, for being the place where many intellectuals and artists met, such as Almada Negreiros or Mário de Sá Carneiro, and where Fernando Pessoa wrote most of his poems.