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History of Puerto Varas

Although there is no official date marking the beginning of Puerto Varas’ history, its founding as a town is commonly associated with the arrival of the first German colonist at the end of 1852.  We have compiled some of the more notable events throughout the history of the city.

Between October 1853 and 1864 the Camino Alerce joined Puerto Montt and the southern lake front of  the Llanquihue Lake.

On Saturday, January 6th 1872, Father Francisco Enrich S.J officially blessed and dedicated  the first Sacred Heart of Jesus temple, whose construction was initiated in 1870 in the Plaza de Armas. In1890 this Catholic church was destroyed in a fire.

In order to promote social meetings and a sense of camaraderie among the families of its members, the first German Club was formed on the 1st of October, 1885.  Meetings were held in the Hotel Llanquihue and were chaired by the club’s first president Fernando von Bischoffshausen.

On the 30th of October 1897 the President of the Republic Federico Errázuriz Echaurren conceded the title of “Villa” via decree 4838 in response to Senator  Ramón Ricardo Rozas’ request. At the time of the decree the town numbered over 500 people.

On January 22, 1915, under the direction of Edmundo Niklitschek and with the corroboration of Bernardo Klenner along with Adalio Morales, construction of   The Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was initiated. Ancud’s Bishop Reverend Antonio Castro inaugurated the church on November 22, 1915.

The Commune of Puerto Varas was established by presidential decree 8583 by President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and was until then part of the Commune of Frutillar.  At the time of that decree on the 30th of December, 1927 the city registered 15,059 inhabitants.

On Sunday, the 22nd of May, 1960 at 3:10p.m. Calbuco’s violent eruption  registering 8.9 on the Richter scale, left its mark on Puerto Varas as well as  the rest of southern Chile.  The quake left behind numerous victims as well as wide spread damage throughout the city.

On the 30th of January 1970 the renowned Grand Hotel and Casino of Puerto Varas opened its doors.  Croupiers were brought in from Viña del Mar’s Casino in order to train local staff. In 2000 this long standing tourist attraction inaugurated its modern premises on Del Salvador Street.

The scenic town of Puerto Varas was touched once again by tragedy on the 7th of May 1995.  Due to torrential rains during a period of various days the drainage system along with an embankment collapsed between Puerto Varas and Ensenada,  leading to 27 deaths as cars fell into the resulting abyss, one by one.

On the 12th of March 2006 an early morning fire completely destroyed the Hotel Colonos del Sur, which for more than 15 years formed part of the scenic downtown landscape of the town. Fortunately, all 92 guests were quickly evacuated by the local fire brigade as  well as hotel staff members.