The farmer and trader João de Esmenaut, or Esmeraldo, one of the most famous traders of his time, built houses that during the 16th century were very famous for their wealth and size.
But João Esmeraldo’s houses were also famous for the reason of Christopher Columbus having stayed there when he visited the island, the first time in 1478, probably to take care of some sugar business, and another time when he passed through on his third trip to America. But everything in this world has its high and low times and the once very famous houses were demolished on the 9th of November 1876 at a time, when they already served only as corn warehouses.
After a major fire in the 1970s and in consequence of the general degradation of the buildings of the block extending over the streets Rua da Alfândega, Rua do João Esmeraldo, Rua do Cristóvão Colombo and Rua do Sabão, the town council decided to change this area into a square. As there was a great possibility of finding important archaeological elements, a qualified team from mainland Portugal was invited to do the excavations. Some of the material found is on exhibition in the Municipal Sugar Museum, Núcleo Museológico da Cidade do Açúcar, Praça Colombo no. 5.
Nowadays, Praça de Colombo is one of the most pleasant areas of the city, with its esplanades, restaurants and shops. As it is a wide open space, it is often used to host public events.