Sewell is located in Central Chile, at an altitude of 2.600 m. Built in the slopes of Cerro Negro, in the Chilean Andes, it was only accessible through a narrow railway line built in 1911.
The colony was built at the beginning of the explotation of the copper mine El Teniente, in 1905. With more than 1.500 km of tunnels, it was the largest copper mine under the world surface. In El Teniente came to work up to 15.000 people, and “Ciudad de las Escaleras” (City of the Stairs), name which Sewell was called, gave shelter to the workers and ther families. Although about 3.000 people still work there, Sewell is now a ghost town and open-air museum that you can visit. It was declared a World Heritage site in 2006.
In Sewell, foreign and the chilean personnel with a certain professional level lived in detached houses, at a place called “Campamento Americano” (American Camp), built on the sunny side of the mountain. If foreigners were single were assigned a “barraca” – appartment with the basics to live. All the others inhabitants of Sewell lived in buildings of three or four plants called “camarotes” (Cabins).
Living in Sewell was not easy. The snow could isolate the colony, but a part from that, its inhabitants had to deal with earthquakes, avalanches and explosions. Quite a challenge.