One of the most notable European banking families in history, the Rothschilds amassed the largest private wealth in modern times. The family’s association with dirt, ruin, or decay is less well recognized. Yet the spectral form of the Chateau Rothschild may be seen standing proudly behind a tall wall of shrubs and brambles about 5 kilometers from the Notre Dame, beyond the lovely green grass of the Edmond de Rothschild Park.
Since the Second World War, when the Rothschild family escaped to England before the Germans arrived and later lived there and looted it during the four-year Nazi occupation of Paris, the Neo-Louis XIV fortress has been abandoned. The U.S. forces, who became the Chateau Rothschild’s subsequent self-service tenants when the city was freed, didn’t do the home any favors either. The Rothschilds never came back to their house, and throughout the years it was abandoned and allowed to degrade while acting as a hangout for vandals and graffiti writers.
Edouard Bergé, an urban explorer, took the initiative to tour inside the abandoned building and provided us with these unique images. Let’s go on a tour…
James Mayer de Rothschild, one of the richest people in the world and the most prominent banker in the nation at the time, bought the opulent building in 1817. He is recognized for having a significant part in transforming France after the Napoleonic Wars into an industrial superpower. According to reports, his personal wealth (excluding that of his family) must have been at least five times that of Bill Gates.
This once-grand home had a regal English garden with lovely waterfalls, and stunning interior paintings by Eugène Lami, and was undoubtedly constructed to display the Rothschild money. The most opulent parties of the day were held inside these walls for more than eight years by James and his wife Betty.
Rossini, Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix, as well as a who's who of the business, entrepreneurial, and political worlds were frequently on their guest list since they were prominent supporters of the arts at the time. Chopin even made Charlotte Rothschild the subject of his Valse Op. 64, N° 2 in C sharp minor.
It would have been unthinkable to believe that the Chateau de Rothschild would be condemned to suffer the destruction and neglect that has left it in the deplorable shape we find it in today as the clinking of champagne glasses, laughing, and music boomed through the corridors.
The design of the Rothschild home was influenced by Jules Mansart’s Château de Clagny, a 17th-century French country estate northeast of the Château de Versailles that had also been neglected, abandoned, and ultimately destroyed less than a century after it had been built. It seemed as though this was the sign that would seal its fate.
Unfortunately, in 1951, when it was designated a historical monument, the Chateau de Rothschild was spared from a similar fate. Baron Edmond, the youngest son of James Mayer de Rothschild, surrendered the castle to the city in 1979 for a symbolic 1 France. The city then quickly sold it to a rich Saudi Arabian bidder for 50 million Francs (something close to 7 million euros today). The home is still in ruins more than thirty years later, even though the refurbishment would have cost almost 30 million euros.
If the sight of this magnificent abandoned ruin doesn’t make one’s stomach turn off the cheese and crackers, the park, which bears Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s name, is still available to the public. There are undoubtedly no guided tours available for this important Parisian landmark, and the Chateau de Rothschild is permanently closed to tourists (well, not for your average visitor anyway).
Where in Paris is the Chateau Rothschild?
The entrance to the Edmond de Rothschild Park is located at 3 Rue des Victories in Boulogne-Billancourt(Hauts de Seine), just across the street from the South East entrance of Bois de Boulogne. However, I must reiterate that, despite what the graffiti may suggest, the chateau itself is not accessible to tourists.