The Rothschilds are known as one of the greatest European banking dynasties ever established, amassing the largest private fortune in modern history. The family is less well-known for anything to do with squalor, ruin or decay. But just 5 miles from the Notre-Dame, beyond the lush green lawn of the Edmond de Rothschild park, standing defiantly behind a thick wall of shrubbery and bramble is the ghostly figure of the Chateau Rothschild.
The ne0-Louis XIV castle has been abandoned since the Second World War when the Rothschild family fled to England before the arrival of the Germans, who would later inhabit and plunder the house during the four-year Nazi occupation of Paris. After the city’s liberation, the U.S. army were the next self-service tenants at the Chateau Rothschild– their stay didn’t do the residence any favours either. The Rothschilds never returned to their home and over the decades it has been left to deteriorate while serving as a playground for graffiti artists and vandals.
The palatial structure was purchased by James Mayer de Rothschild in 1817, one of the richest men in the world at the time and the most powerful banker in the country, accredited with playing a major role in making France an industrial power following the Napoleonic Wars. It is said his personal fortune (not including his family’s) must have been at least five times the fortune accumulated by Bill Gates.
This once grand house was certainly built to reflect the Rothschild fortune and boasted a regal English garden with picturesque waterfalls and beautiful indoor frescoes by Eugène Lami. For over eight years, James and his wife Betty, hosted the most lavish parties of the epoch within these walls.
As major art patrons of the time, their guest list regularly included the likes of Rossini, Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix and a who’s who of the financial, entrepreneurial and political world. Chopin even dedicated his Valse Op. 64, N° 2 in C sharp minor to the Rothschild’s daughter Charlotte.
As the clinking of champagne glasses, laughter and music rang through the halls, it would have been unimaginable to think that the Chateau de Rothschild would be doomed to suffer the damage and neglect that has left it in the sorry state we find it today.
As if it were the omen that would seal its fate, the design of the Rothschild house was inspired by Jules Mansart’s Château de Clagny, a 17th century French country estate northeast of the Château de Versailles that had also been abandoned, neglected and consequently demolished less than a century after its construction.
Alas, the Chateau de Rothschild was saved a similar fate in 1951 when it was declared a historical monument. In 1979, James Mayer de Rothschild’s youngest son, Baron Edmond sold the castle for a symbolic 1 France to the city, which in turn, immediately sold it off to a wealthy Saudi Arabian buyer for 50 million Francs (something close to 7 million euros today). More than thirty years later, under the same ownership, the house is still in ruins, with an estimated 30 million euro price tag for the renovation.
While the park, named after Baron Edmond de Rothschild, remains open to the public who can picnic on the lawn with a front row seat to this spectacular abandoned ruin– if it doesn’t turn one’s stomach off the cheese and crackers that is. Certainly, there are no guided tours for this historical monument of Paris; the Chateau de Rothschild is closed to visitors indefinitely (well, not for your average visitor anyway).
Where to find the Chateau Rothschild in Paris
You can find the entrance to the Edmond de Rothschild park at 3 Rue des victoires, Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts de Seine, just a hop over the road from the South East entrance of Bois de Boulogne) Tel: 01 55 18 66 80, Website here.
But I must clarify again, that the chateau itself is not open to visitors, even though the graffiti suggests otherwise.
(c) Paris Bise Art
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