Braun Menendez Palace
Museum in Punta Arenas - Chile
The Braun Menendez Palace represents the Golden Age of the Magallanes region in the extreme south of the continent with its original furniture and historic objects kept as they originally were back then.
Who were the Braun Menendez?
Mauricio Braun and Josefina Menéndez made their fortune out of supplying the ships that had to pass by the city of Punta Arenas as they rounded Cape Horn before the Panama canal was built. Originally there were 1 or 2 ships visiting per day, but once the canal was constructed, this number dropped significantly to around only one a month. When this happened, the family picked up and went to Buenos Aires, using their house in Punta Arenas as a summer retreat.
In 1903 Mauricio Braun asked the French architect Antoine Beaulier to build their residence in Punta Arenas with material shipped from Europe. After 3 years of work, the Braun Menendez home was finally ready in all its splendour.
In 1974, the palace was declared a national monument and in 1983 the descendents of Mauricio Braun and Josefina Menéndez donated the house and all of its belongings to the government. Where once it was only a place that the elite would visit, it is now open to the community as an artistic and cultural place. The museum is now officially the Historic Museum of Magallanes.
The following are photos and a description of the main rooms of the Braun Menendez house:
The Private Office
Mauricio Braun's office in the front room had a direct entrance from the garden, which allowed him to attend people without them entering the house. Even though most of the extensive economic activities of Mauricio Braun were done in their Braun & Blanchard office in their Head Office on Muñoz Gamero Square, this particular office was used for important conversations about any matters that would affect the large family group. The mahogany and leather furniture are from the late 19th century, most probably from England; whereas on the walls you will find portraits of the family and other people that visited the house at some time, especially by the church. A Russian engraving that represents a scene of the steppes from over a century ago reminds the family of their home country.
The Entrance Hall
This large area connects the main rooms of the house similar to a Mediterranean house style patio though with the architectonic solution of having it covered by glass due to the extreme climate of the region. This was the antechamber to the office, the billiard room, the living rooms, the dining room and the main bedroom.
The walls are painted with classic motifs that seem to continue from the outside decoration. The room, painted al fresco, simulates an open sky giving the illusion of an open patio.
Most of the furniture is Victorian style made from Maple. Objects of note are the pair of ancient Chinese porcelain vases and two bronze statues by the European artist N. Kossowsky from the end of the 19th Century.
Overlooking the room is a portrait of Josefina Menéndez Beherty de Braun, the lady of the house painted by Julio Romero de Torres a Spanish painter born in Cordoba, Argentina and whose works are shown in the best museum and collections around the world.
The Billiards and Games Room
The games room was decorated in the new French Renaissance style of 1900, adding Art Nouveau elements to this classic style. The wooden skirting board, the wallpaper, chimney and bronze light fittings all reflect exactly the decorative tastes of that time.
The portrait of a woman, an imaginary model in the artist's mind, was created by the Chilean painter Marcial Plaza Ferrand (1879-1948) who became famous at the beginning of the century for his elegant, yet provocative feminine figures that have been reproduced many times on the covers of magazines and other publications. This painting was a gift from Juan Blanchard to his business partner Mauricio Braun.
Billiard tables, darts, card games and betting chips were reserved to gentlemen in clubs or special rooms such as the one Mauricio Braun built in his residence. Here he would get together with his friends, before and after meals, talking about politics or business, topics that were considered only for men at that time.
The Dining Room
The dining room was decorated in the same style as the Billiards room; new French Renaissance style of 1900, adding Art Nouveau elements to this historic style. The King Louis XIV furniture made of walnut created a stylistic combination that was very much in vogue at the beginning of the century. The most important painting in this room is the scene of geese by the Spanish painter José Ruiz Blasco.
The diving room was the place of great receptions and meals - each one of them of notable importance in the social life of Magallanes - as was it a place for the daily living for the numerous Braun Menéndez family. The meals were prepared en the spacious kitchen found under the dining room in the basement where it would be sent up via a lift system.
The Main Bedroom
Mauricio Braun and Josefina Menéndez's bedroom was where various of their children were born. The French walnut furniture in the Louis XV style was made around 1900. The wallpaper imitating brocade, the marble fireplace, the golden mirror and the spacious rest area by the window gave the room an elegant aspect which was intertwined with a more homely feel with the portraits of children, bottles on the dressing table and broidery material at hand.
Just off the bedroom was the private bathroom with its white and rose tiles reflecting the comfort that came from Europe that was adapted to the hard life in the Magallanes region.
Where is the Museum?
The museum is only a block away from the main square.
May to September: Monday to Sunday (Tuesday closed) 10.30am-2pm
October to April: Monday to Saturday (Tuesday closed) 10.30am-5pm / Sunday 10.30-2pm
Price: Free as of March 2015
When we visited, we had to pay $1000 Chilean Pesos to enter (now it is free), it was worth it though since this historic building with all of its content has been kept the same since the original owners left and we were given free postcards (nice touch).
Before you enter, you are given some cloth shoe coverings (like what you are given at hospital) so as not to mark the floor or leave it dirty.
See what else you can do in Punta Arenas.
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