The other day i headed up to Playa Ancha in order to visit a couple of houses relating to a post i'm in the process of writing. I've driven through this part of town quite a lot and have always been impressed with some of the architecture up there.
Playa Ancha was once a rich area, inhabited mainly by the British. Santiago Wanderers (Valparaiso's football team) was founded up there and still plays home games in the neighbourhood.
Today, the area is home to Playa Ancha University and 1000s of students live there. Many of the old houses are rented out by the room to students and there's that typical university buzz about the place.
A lot of locals want to separate the council from the rest of Valparaiso, saying that Playa Ancha would be better off forming a new Commune with Laguna Verde and Curauma. There is a definite sense that the area is not really connected to the rest of the city. This is why some people refer to it as El Estado Independiente de Playa Ancha, either jokingly or derisively.
A wander around the area is essential to get a feel for the rest of the city. There's nothing really to do up there, but on a sunny day it makes for a pleasant stroll.
Avenida Playa Ancha starts at Torpederas Beach. This beach used to be the top balneario, with a huge wrought iron pier and men looking like this:
In the late 1920s, the rich started leaving the area and spending more time in Viña and this beach slowly became less and less exclusive. It'll probably become more popular in the next few years as a whole new promenade has been built connecting downtown with the beach and further along.
Here are a few photos of some of the houses up in Playa Ancha. There are dozens more examples as good as or better that i didn't get a chance to take photos of...
The Hospital Naval
Ascensor Villaseca, no longer in use unfortunately.