Barrio París Londres
South of the Alameda, dating from 1618, the major landmark is the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (Alameda 834), Chile’s oldest colonial building and a survivor of repeated fires and earthquakes; the former convent is also home to the Museo de Arte Colonial, an ecclesiastical colonial art collection.
Until the early 1920s, the Franciscans controlled much of this area, but a financial crisis forced them to sell 30,000 square meters to developer Walter Lihn. Lihn demolished several buildings and patios, and their gardens, but architects Roberto Araya and Ernesto Holzmann created an intimately livable neighborhood of meandering cobbled streets in their place.
Betraying the neighborhood’s legacy, the house at Londres 40 was a torture center during Pinochet’s reign of terror; recently placed on sale, it’s again become a center of controversy as many believe it should become a memorial museum.
Two blocks west of Iglesia San Francisco, the Casa Central de la Universidad de Chile (1863–1872), the state university’s main campus, stretches along the Alameda. Several blocks south, Ricardo Larraín Bravo designed the Basílica Los Sacramentinos (Arturo Prat 471) after Paris’s Eglise de Sacre Coeur. The 1985 earthquake caused damage that still awaits repair.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition