The region was first occupied in colonial times by planting herbs surrounding the Catumbi River. To the ancient Indians who lived there, Catumbi meant shaded river, or river flowing among the foliage. From the plantations of the colonial times emerged the neighborhood that borders Santa Teresa, Estácio and Rio Comprido. Later in the 19th century, it became a haven for the nobility, being mentioned a few times by the writer Machado de Assis in works such as The Posthumous Memoirs of Braz Cubas.
The landscape of Catumbi began to change after some landfills and the establishment of two architectural landmarks of the city of Rio in this region: the first open air cemetery (São Francisco de Paula) and the House of Correction, the first jail in Brazil. In the 20th century, the neighborhood was drastically changed to facilitate road access to the city with the construction of tunnel Santa Bárbara and the opening of the tunnel that led to Henrique Valadares Ave. Even with the massive expropriation of property and the occupation of the surrounding hills, some of the neighborhood’s streets still keep the tranquility of the old days.