The Palacio Cousiño (Dieciocho 438, tel. 02/6985063, www.palaciocousino.co.cl ) is open 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. daily and 2:30–5 p.m. weekdays only. Admission, including guided tours in Spanish or English, costs US$3 for adults, US$0.80 for children. Photographers and videographers may shoot the gardens and exterior, but not the interior.
South of the Alameda, 19th-century Calle Dieciocho was an aristocratic area of pseudo-Parisian mansions long before the oligarchy moved to the eastern suburbs. One of its keystone families was the Cousiños, Portuguese immigrants who made fortunes in wine and mining.
Funds for the Palacio Cousiño (1878) came from the estate of art collector Luis Cousiño, who inherited his father’s Chañarcillo mining fortune (Luis Cousiño died young, in 1873, but his widow Isidora Goyenechea continued construction). Architect Paul Lauthoud, also responsible for Parque Quinta Normal ’s Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, designed the three-story house with marble staircases, a music hall, winter garden, and even a one-person elevator, the country’s first.
Decorative touches included baroque cabinets made for Russian czar Nicholas II and freestanding Ming vases. Spanish landscape architect Miguel Arana Bórica fashioned extensive formal gardens, but subsequent urban development has steamrolled most of them.
The palace remained in family hands until 1941, when the city bought it for a museum and as a guesthouse for high-profile visitors such as Charles DeGaulle, Marshal Tito, and Golda Meir. A 1968 fire, which destroyed the 3rd-floor interior, kept England’s Queen Elizabeth II from spending the night on her state visit.