Palacio Sara Braun and Museo Regional de Magallanes are testament to the staggering wealth produced by the region's vast 19th-century sheep and cattle estancias. The museums are the former residences of several members of the families Braun, Nogueira, and Menéndez, who believed that any far-flung, isolated locale could be tolerated if one were to "live splendidly and remain in constant contact with the outside world." And live splendidly they did in these veritable palaces, until the falling price of wool and the nationalization of estancias during the early 1970s forced the families to lose a large percentage of their holdings, and their descendants to relocate to places such as Buenos Aires.
The Palacio Sara Braun is now partially occupied by the Hotel José Nogueira and the Club de la Unión, a meeting area for the city's commercial and political leaders. The homes are national monuments, and both have been preserved in their original state, which allows visitors to appreciate the finest European craftsmanship available at the end of the 19th century. French architects planned the neoclassical exteriors, and craftsmen were brought from Europe to sculpt marble fireplaces and hand-paint walls to resemble marble and leather. The interior fixtures and furniture were also imported from Europe. For some visitors, the knowledge that these families to a large extent exterminated native Indians and suppressed labor movements in the region on their quest for wealth may temper the appreciation for the grandeur of these palaces. If one wants European grandeur, one normally goes to Europe, not to Patagonia. Still, both museums are really impressive.